India now second to US in coronavirus cases

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India reached 4.2 million coronavirus cases over the weekend, putting it second only to the U.S. for total cases.

The nation recorded 90,802 new cases in the past 24 hours, The Associated Press reported. That brought the nation’s total number of cases past that of Brazil, which previously had the second-highest caseload. The U.S. still has the most cases, with more than 6.2 million.

The Indian Health Ministry also reported 1,016 additional deaths on Monday. With a total of 71,642 deaths, India has the third-highest death toll.

Despite the increases, the world’s second most-populous country has continued steadily unwinding its lockdown measures to avoid a further economic downturn. The Delhi Metro resumed operations after a five-month shutdown Monday, only allowing asymptomatic, masked passengers aboard.

Security enforced social distancing while frisking passengers at stations, using metal detectors attached to rods, the AP reported. Commuters were required to sanitize their hands before entering.

In New Delhi, bars are set to reopen Wednesday. The country saw its economy shrink more rapidly than any other major nation’s during the pandemic, nearly 24 percent in the first quarter.

“While lives are important, livelihoods are equally important,” Rajesh Bhushan, the nation’s top health minister, said in a news briefing last week.

The majority of the cases are from a handful of Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and the most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. However, several other states where rates were on the decline are also seeing increases.

New Delhi, for example, implemented aggressive screening protocols that seemed to mitigate the spread. However, as reopening has progressed, cases and fatalities have surged, the AP reported. Experts are concerned the reopening of the metro will only exacerbate the increase.

The country has relied heavily on rapid antigen tests, which deliver results in minutes but are also less precise and prone to false negatives.

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