India Hits Record Infections Spurring Mumbai Curbs Through April

by BLOOMBERG

India added more than 100,000 coronavirus infections over the last 24-hours, a record increase that pushed its richest state to order offices to work from home and shut malls and restaurants through April.

Maharashtra, which houses financial hub Mumbai and contributes about 15% of national output, will halt all non-essential services from 8 p.m. on Monday. Private offices were asked to work from home, with some allowances for banks and stock exchanges.

The country reported 103,558 new infections, according to data from the federal Health Ministry Monday.

“There is an alarming rate of growth of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal government said in a statement over the weekend.

As infection numbers continue to spiral five Indian states are in the middle of local elections with thousands of people thronging to campaign rallies, while the northern Uttarakhand is marking the monthlong Hindu pilgrimage of the Kumbh Mela, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to the banks of the Ganges river.

Maharashtra is the epicenter of this fresh outbreak, which follows an unexplained lull in recent months that allowed businesses to re-open and fostered optimism among policy makers about a recovery in growth. The renewed restrictions will weigh on the central bank, whose officials meet Monday through Wednesday to decide monetary policy.

India’s benchmark stock index plunged and the rupee weakened on Monday, while sovereign bonds were little changed. Twelve of 19 sector sub-indexes compiled by BSE Ltd. fell, led by gauges of banks and financial companies. Shares of hotels and cinema operators plummeted.

Read more: Covid’s Puzzling Decline Sparks a Shopping Spree in India

India’s Covid-19 Numbers:
  • A total 103,558 new infections over the past 24 hours surpasses the earlier peak of 97,894 in September.
  • Mumbai reported a record 11,163 cases on Sunday
  • With a total of more than 12.5 million cases, India holds the world’s third-largest tally after the U.S. and Brazil
  • About 10.4 million citizens have been vaccinated so far in the country of more than 1.3 billion people

Asia’s third-largest economy had slumped into a historic recession last year after Modi announced a sudden and strict nationwide lockdown. Most experts attribute the resurgence in infections to residents flouting health and safety rules after a re-open was permitted, while some officials inconclusively blame a new infectious strain of the coronavirus.

The country has made little progress in sequencing its test samples, with news reports stating that less than 1% of samples have so far been studied.

Maharashtra accounted for 57% of new infections over the past 14 days and 47% of deaths during the period. More than half of the state’s hospital beds are occupied and authorities warned that health care systems could be overwhelmed in 15-20 days unless the rate of growth is significantly curbed.