NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s coronavirus cases jumped by another 96,424 in the past 24 hours, showing little sign of leveling.
The Health Ministry on Friday raised the nation’s total cases to 5.21 million, or 0.37% of its nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,174 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 84,372 fatalities. Experts say India's death toll may be a significant undercount.
India is expected to have the highest number of confirmed cases within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 6.67 million people have been infected.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday Thursday made a fresh appeal to people to wear masks and maintain social distancing as his government prepared plans for handling big congregations expected during a major Hindu festival season beginning next month.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said with a recovery rate of more than 78%, India has only 1 million active coronavirus cases.
Nearly 60% of the active cases are concentrated in five of India's 28 states — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for 474 of the 1,174 fatalities reported in the country in the past 24 hours.
Authorities extended until the end of September a ban on assemblies of four or more people in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital. More than 178,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus in Mumbai, including 8,320 who died.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— New Zealand reported no new cases of the coronavirus on Friday for the first time in more than five weeks as hopes rise that an outbreak discovered in Auckland last month has been stamped out. Friday also marked the fourth consecutive day without any cases of community transmission, with all recent cases being found among quarantined passengers returning from abroad. Health authorities expect to continue finding such cases at the border. Authorities have still not pinpointed the origin of the August outbreak, which they believe was imported. New Zealand has reported a total of just over 1,800 cases and 25 deaths.
— An Australian state government will open the state border to the national capital after being criticized for refusing to allow a Canberra resident to attend her father’s funeral because of pandemic restrictions. Health Minister Steven Miles said Canberra travelers would no longer have to spend time in Queensland hotel quarantine from Sept. 25. They’ll have to fly rather than drive to Queensland, however, because Canberra is surrounded by New South Wales state, which remains subject to border restrictions.
— A senior governing party lawmaker who helped with new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s election campaign has been hospitalized with COVID-19, becoming the first confirmed case in Japan’s parliament. Shuichi Takatori, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, developed a fever and tested positive for the coronavirus, according to parliament's lower house. Takatori attended a plenary session on Wednesday at which Suga was formally elected prime minister. He accompanied 81-year-old party Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai when they greeted former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after the vote, Kyodo News agency reported. Health officials are investigating his close contacts for possible infection. Japan has 77,494 confirmed coronavirus cases including 1,482 deaths as of Friday, according to the health ministry.
— South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has stayed in the 100s for a 16th consecutive day as authorities struggle to contain small-scale local infections. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that the 126 new cases in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 22,783 with 377 deaths. South Korea’s caseload has been slowing recently, prompting authorities to relax elevated social distancing rules in the Seoul area. But the country’s daily jump remains in triple digits as cluster transmissions linked to churches, schools and elsewhere and some untraceable cases continue to be detected.
— China on Friday reported that imported coronavirus cases surged to 32 over the previous 24 hours. Thirteen of those cases were reported in the northern province of Shaanxi, whose capital Xi’an is a major industrial center, while the eastern financial and business hub of Shanghai reported 12. China, where the virus was first reported late last year, has gone more than a month without reporting any cases of local transmission but remains highly vigilant to cases brought from outside. It has suspended issuing new visas and anyone arriving from abroad is required to undergo two weeks of quarantine. Schools, businesses, transport and public services have largely resumed normal operations under social distancing, mask wearing and location tracking requirements.