Record rise in India virus cases raises fear of return of curbs

India reported a record daily increase of novel coronavirus cases on Friday and became the world's fourth worst-hit country, raising the prospect of the return of a lockdown just days after it was lifted.

Anxious to revive the economy after a nearly 70-day lockdown, the government this week opened most public transport, offices and malls, even though health officials said the country was weeks away from flattening the curve of infections.

On Friday, the health ministry said the number of cases had increased by 10,956 from the previous day, with new infections rife in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

Dr V.K.Paul, head of a government task force tackling the outbreak, said there was no quick end in sight.

"Our population is still susceptible, this virus is present, we have contained it, but this fight will go on for months," Paul told a news conference.

The new cases took India's total number of infections to 297,535, and it replaced Britain as the fourth worst-affected country, according to Reuters tallies.

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India struggles with the coronavirus
A Nepalese Youth hold placard 'Enough is Enough' as the part of peaceful protest maintaining physical distance demanding 100% PCR and safe quarantine against the government at Panga Dobato, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal on Friday, June 12, 2020.  (Photo by Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
LUCKNOW, INDIA JUNE 12: Family members shifting a person between wards after hospital staff declined due to fears of coronavirus infection, at KGMU, on June 10, 2020 in Lucknow, India. (Photo by Dheeraj Dhawan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: A health worker in a PPE bodysuit takes a swab sample from a child at a mobile Covid-19 testing van in Patel Nagar, on June 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: Workers wheen the body of a person who died of Covid-19 from an ambulance towards the CNG furnace in Nigambodh Ghat crematorium, on June 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: A health worker in a PPE bodysuit taking swab samples outside a mobile Covid-19 testing van in Karol Bagh, on June 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: Medical workers in PPE coveralls attend to a person in an ambulance outside the Covid-19 ward, at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, on June 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: A man and a woman mourn the death of an elderly relative due to coronavirus infection, outside Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, on June 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: A medical professional wearing PPE coveralls attends to a hospital employee donating blood during a camp at Safdarjung hospital, on June 12, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: The body of a 24-year-old woman who was pregnant when she died of Covid-19 is lowered into a grave, at the Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam graveyard, near ITO, on June 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JUNE 12: The body of a person who died due to coronavirus infection is moved from an ambulance at the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium, on June 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Amal KS/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
A Muslim man gets his body temperature checked as he arrives to offer Friday prayers at Fatehpuri Masjid after the government eased a nationwide lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in New Delhi on June 12, 2020. - The main mosque in the Indian capital New Delhi, which briefly reopened to worshippers, will again close over fears that the coronavirus could spread, its management said on June 11. (Photo by XAVIER GALIANA / AFP) (Photo by XAVIER GALIANA/AFP via Getty Images)
MUMBAI, INDIA - JUNE 11: Health workers conducting COVID-19 coronavirus testing drive inside the Dharavi slum, during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus, on June 11, 2020 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
MUMBAI, INDIA - JUNE 11: Couples tied the knot with their few family members at Ganpati Temple in Bandra after getting permission from authorities during the ongoing nation-wide lockdown against the spread of the coronavirus, on June 11, 2020 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 11: A medical team wheels out the body of a person who died of Covid-19 during a handover to family members outside the mortuary, at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, on June 11, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
A municipal worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sprays disinfectant at the Siliguri Regulated Fish Market Complex, after authorities closed the market amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Siliguri on June 12, 2020. (Photo by Diptendu DUTTA / AFP) (Photo by DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP via Getty Images)
A Nepalese worker arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport from Kuwait amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Kathmandu, Nepal on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (Photo by Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA June 11, 2020. A office worker uses a automatic hand sanitizer at the National Media Center which have become a common sight at various Indian offices to control the corona pandemic on June 11, 2020 in New Delhi,India. (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, June 11, 2020 -- Priests are seen at a temple reopened in Kolkata, India on Jun 10, 2020. India's federal health ministry Thursday morning said that 357 new deaths due to COVID-19, besides fresh 9,996 positive cases were reported during the past 24 hours across the country, taking the number of deaths to 8,102 and total cases to 286,579. (Photo by Xinhua/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
A graffiti artist pays tribute to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, by painting on a railway station wall in Mumbai, India on June 11, 2020. India has begun gradually lifting its restrictions imposed by the government to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by Himanshu Bhatt/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
JAIPUR, INDIA - JUNE 11: Mahouts walk their elephants towards a medical camp organised by the Forest Department at Hathi Gaon (elephant village) on June 11, 2020 in Jaipur, India. The pachyderms were tested for Sars-cov-2 infection as they are employed in giving tourist-rides on the cobbled pathways of Amber fort and stay in close proximity of their owners and mahouts. (Photo by Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
PATNA, INDIA - JUNE 11: A cleaning staff at work at a temporary hospital with facilities for treatment of Covid-19 patients, at Patliputra Sports Complex on June 11, 2020 in Patna, India. (Photo by Parwaz Khan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 11: A person chose to lie down while waiting in a queue at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital Covid-19 screening centre on June 11, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 11: North Delhi Mayor Avtar Singh (C), EDMC Mayor Anju Kamal Kant (L) and Chairman Standing Committee of NDMC Jai Parkash (R) address the media on COVID-19 at Dr. SPM Civic Centre, on June 11, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Senior leaders of the three BJP-led municipal corporations on Thursday claimed that over 2,000 COVID-19 deaths haven taken place in Delhi, while the official tally stands at 984 till Wednesday. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
JAIPUR, INDIA - JUNE 11: Dr. Arvind Mathur, a veterinarian, feeds watermelons to an elephant during sample collection for Covid-19 testing at a medical camp organised by the Forest Department at Hathi Gaon (elephant village) on June 11, 2020 in Jaipur, India. The pachyderms were tested for Sars-cov-2 infection as they are employed in giving tourist-rides on the cobbled pathways of Amber fort and stay in close proximity of their owners and mahouts. (Photo by Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Commuters wait without keeping social distancing for the bus to return home amid coronavirus in Kolkata, India, 11 June, 2020. (Photo by Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Migrant workers and families wait on the roadside to get transferred to a railway station before boarding special trains to Bihar and Jharkhand states after the government eased a nationwide lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on June 11, 2020. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Migrant workers and families wait on the roadside to get transferred to a railway station before boarding special trains to Bihar and Jharkhand states after the government eased a nationwide lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on June 11, 2020. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)
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India's death toll reached 8,498, which officials said was small in relation to its 1.3 billion population. Britain has had more than 41,000 deaths.

The head of Delhi's Jama Masjid, one of the country's biggest mosques, ordered a halt to congregations until the end of the month.

"What is the point of visiting mosques at a time when the virus is spreading so fast," said the cleric, Syed Ahmed Bukhari said, suggesting other mosques do the same.

Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of the Confederation of All India Traders, said shops may have to close again in the capital, where the number of cases is projected to grow to half a million by the end of July from 32,810 now.

The Supreme Court sought a report from Delhi authorities saying patients faced a "horrendous situation" in packed hospitals.

The city needs 80,000 hospital beds by the end of next month. It now has 11,000, the government has said.

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