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Global Covid report: India passes 8m cases as Germany sees record infections

India’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 8 million, as concerns grew over the looming Hindu festival season. It is only the second country worldwide to confirm more than 8 million cases, after the US, which has more than 8.8m.

The Indian health ministry reported another 49,881 infections and 517 fatalities on Thursday, raising the total death toll to 120,527.

It took until mid-July for India to record its first million cases. Two months later, 5 million people had tested positive. But the nation has seen a slower spread since 16 September, when daily infections hit a record 97,894, with daily deaths at a high of 1,275.

Despite soaring infections, in the eastern state of Bihar social distancing was largely abandoned this week amid campaigning to form a government in the world’s biggest election since the coronavirus pandemic began. Wednesday saw the first round of voting in the state of 122 million people.

Life elsewhere in India has been edging back to pre-virusnorms with shops, businesses, subway trains and cinemas reopening, despite the virus’s continued march across the country. The rolling five-day average of infections stands at more than 45,000, according to the Times of India

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 16,774 to 481,013, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday. The reported death toll rose by 89 to 10,272, the tally showed.

The new case figure is the highest ever recorded in Germany. The previous record, reported the day before, was 14,964.

German chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday that bars, restaurants and theatres would be shut from 2-30 November under new measures agreed between Merkel and heads of regional governments. Schools will stay open, and shops will be allowed to operate with strict limits on access.

“We need to take action now,” Merkel said. “Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks.”

Her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, posted on Twitter: “November will be a month of truth. The increasing numbers of infections are forcing us to take tough countermeasures in order to break the second wave.”

World stock markets went into a dive in response to the news that Europe’s biggest economies – France also introduced a national lockdown – were imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy this year into its deepest recession in generations.

Iran meanwhile reported record daily deaths on Wednesday for the second day in a row, and declared that it was waging a “full-scale war” with coronavirus. The Middle East’s worst-hit country recorded 415 deaths in 24 hours.

“This is the result of an unprecedented rise in infections and hospitalisations in recent weeks,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address, visibly moved as she gave the figures. “We are now in a full-scale war with the coronavirus,” she said.

Iranians wearing face masks walk in at the Tajrish bazaar in Tehran, Iran
Iranians wearing face masks walk in at the Tajrish bazaar in Tehran, Iran Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

The latest fatalities raised the total virus deaths to 33,714 in the country of 80 million. Lari said 6,824 people had tested positive in the past 24 hours, bringing Iran’s total declared cases to 558,648.

The growing cases have overloaded Iran’s already stretched hospitals, as renewed US sanctions since Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal have hit all sectors of the Iranian economy.

The United States’ own hospitals were warned in a joint alert from the FBI and two federal agencies that there was “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to US hospitals and healthcare providers”. The alert said malicious groups were targeting the sector with attacks including ransomware.

China on Wednesday reported 47 new symptomatic cases, up from 42 a day earlier and marking the highest daily increase in symptomatic cases in more than two months, the country’s national health authority said on Thursday. China does not recognise as symptomless infections among its confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Of the new cases, 23 were local infections in Xinjiang involving previously asymptomatic patients following a mass infection reported in Kashgar. The rest were imported infections originating from overseas.

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