India ask states to 'carefully calibrate' lockdown easing


FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a woman during a rapid antigen testing campaign for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside a shopping mall in Mumbai, India, March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India's central government on Saturday urged states to be careful in reopening from COVID-19 lockdowns to prevent a resurgence of infections in the hard-hit country.

Indian states are easing restrictions as a second wave of coronavirus infections appears to abate. The country is second only to the United States in confirmed infections at 29.82 million, with 385,137 deaths.

States and territories "must ensure that the whole process is carefully calibrated," Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote in a letter to top provincial bureaucrats.

"A system should be in place at the micro level to ensure that whenever cases are rising in a smaller place it gets checked there itself through local containment measures," he wrote.

India on Saturday reported 60,753 new COVID-19 cases and 1,647 deaths over the past 24 hours, according to a government statement.

Since the easing of restrictions, crowds and traffic have filled the streets in cities across India, threatening another spike in infections in the world's second-most populous country.

Bhalla urged states to regularly monitor adherence to COVID-19 guidelines - masks, hand hygiene, social distancing and proper ventilation in closed spaces.

He asked them to continue the country's "test-track-treat" strategy and step up the pace of vaccinations.

A third wave of infections is likely to hit India by October, and although it will be better controlled than the last outbreak, the pandemic will remain a public health threat for at least another year, a Reuters poll of medical experts showed.

(Reporting by Nigam Prusty; Writing by Nidhi Verma; Editing by William Mallard)

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