NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra warned on Friday of a full lockdown to contain coronavirus infections if people didn’t restrict their freedom of movement as the country hit a six-month high in daily cases.
India’s richest state and home to the overcrowded financial capital Mumbai has been badly hit by the virus, while the country has now recorded a total of 12.3 million cases, including 81,466 new infections registered on Friday, data from the Department of Health showed.
“Take this as a warning that if things stay the same, I could impose a full lockdown in the next few days,” Maharashtra’s Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray said in a televised address.
He said people were not taking necessary precautions such as wearing masks or avoiding unnecessary travel.
“The situation in the state is worrying. If it continues like this, our healthcare infrastructure will be inadequate for the next 15 to 20 days, ”added Thackeray.
India has the third highest death toll from the virus after the US and Brazil, and several states are considering imposing new restrictions. The death toll in the country reached 163,396, with 469 new deaths reported on Friday.
Maharashtra reported up to 47,828 new infections on Friday – the highest level since the pandemic hit India in March 2020.
The southern state of Karnataka ordered the closure of gyms, banned events in religious places and urged cinemas, bars, pubs and restaurants to accept limited numbers of people.
Cases have also increased in the states of Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
India imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in the world early last year to control coronavirus, but it was eased to save the economy and cases gradually declined later in the year.
The new surge challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which struggled to implement last year’s lockdown.
The government has stepped up its vaccination campaign in recent weeks, but vaccinations have been slow to reach the 1.3 billion people in India.
Modi has also been criticized for exporting vaccines India produces to other countries, although most Indians have not yet got them.
The Prime Minister of New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, called on the federal government on Friday to extend vaccinations to all age groups.
“The (central government) should allow states to vaccinate anyone on a war basis,” he said in a statement.