India reported more than 16,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a 27% increase from the previous day, according to the country’s health ministry – as doctors brace for a potential third wave driven by the highly contagious variant Omicron.
The number of Omicron cases in India more than tripled this week, with at least 1,270 infections now recorded, up from 358 last Friday.
Health Secretary Lav Agarwal called it a “big increase” at a press conference Thursday.
According to the head of India’s Covid-19 task force, VK Paul, the increase “could be part of the global increase in cases pushed by Omicron”.
“This variant is highly transmissible and that perhaps explains the speed at which it is rising,” he said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, as five Indian states prepare for elections in early 2022, political parties have staged a number of events drawing large crowds, particularly in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the most populated in the country.
Many people have stopped wearing face masks and are getting tested less often than before.
Local restrictions: While the national government has not issued any restrictions on large gatherings, it has outlined the Covid protocols that states must impose based on their local circumstances. At least 13 states and several major cities have imposed restrictions.
In the capital, New Delhi, all social, cultural, political and festive gatherings are banned until further notice. Bars and restaurants are capped at 50% capacity, with face masks required for entry. Gyms and swimming pools are completely closed. A nighttime curfew was announced on Tuesday.
In Mumbai, all social, religious and political gatherings – including weddings and professional receptions – are capped at 50% indoors and 25% outdoors until further notice.
Vaccination status: Just over 63% of India’s adult population was fully vaccinated as of Thursday, according to the health ministry, while 90% were “partially vaccinated”.
India has reported a total of 34.8 million Covid-19 cases and 481,080 related deaths, according to the ministry.
Learn more about Omicron and India: