Bangladesh and parts of India look to lockdowns as a wave of cases hits South Asia, and more news around the world. | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bangladesh and parts of India look to lockdowns as a wave of cases hits South Asia, and more news around the world.

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NEW DELHI — As a new wave of coronavirus infections grips the densely populated region of South Asia, home to a quarter of the world’s population, Bangladesh on Saturday announced a second lockdown and officials in Mumbai, India’s largest city, said they were on the verge of declaring one.

The authorities in Bangladesh said the nation of 165 million people would go into a weeklong lockdown beginning on Monday to curb the spread of the virus. The country shut down for two months starting in March last year.

Bangladesh on Friday registered nearly 7,000 cases in 24 hours, the highest since the spread of the virus in the country last year. The daily death toll has been around 50 for the past week, but what has particularly alarmed officials is the high test positivity rate, with 24 percent of virus tests conducted coming back positive.

Farhad Hossain, Bangladesh’s state minister for public administration, told the local news media that “industries and factories will remain open,” but would operate in shifts and follow strict health protocols. The exceptions appeared to be aimed at reducing the economic impact and avoiding the kind of exodus of laborers that led to a humanitarian crisis in India last year.

Infections have also been rising sharply in Pakistan, which has struggled to source vaccines for its population, and in India, where a vaccination drive is only now picking up pace — despite the country being home to one of the world’s largest suppliers of vaccines.

Just a few weeks ago, India was a major exporter of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it was using that to exert influence in South Asia and around the world. But as infections soared, the country decided to cut back on exports and is now holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses that the Serum Institute of India, the private company that is one of the world’s largest producers of the AstraZeneca vaccine, makes each day.

India on Saturday recorded its biggest single-day spike in cases since September, with government officials reporting nearly 90,000 cases and 714 deaths over the past 24 hours. Single-day figures sometimes contain anomalies, but the country’s seven-day average of new cases, a more reliable gauge, has been rising sharply since early March.

Nearly half of deaths and new infections in recent weeks have been traced to the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub.

Uddhav Thackeray, the state’s chief minister, warned in a televised address on Friday that a lockdown was imminent if people continued with their relaxed attitude. Even when people are vaccinated, he noted, protection from infection is not absolute.

“The vaccine is like an umbrella in the rain,” Mr. Thackeray said. “But what we are facing right now is a storm.”

As cases rise, law enforcement officials across India are adopting stringent measures, including fining violators who don’t wear masks. India has also expanded its vaccination drive, now administering over three million jabs a day.

But the government’s messaging is at times contradictory, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many senior officials continue to hold large rallies in several states where local elections are underway.

The government has also allowed a huge monthlong Hindu festival to go ahead on the banks of Ganges River. One million to five million people are expected to participate in the festivities in the city of Haridwar each day, officials say.

In other virus news from around the world:

  • On Saturday, Catalonia became the latest region of Spain whose authorities defied a government decree that a face mask must be worn in all public spaces, including beaches, independent of whether social distancing can be maintained. Miquel Sàmper, the region’s interior minister, told a Catalan radio station that the regional government believed that it was “pure logic” that “when you are sunbathing, you need not wear a mask,” although the mask should be worn on the beach if a person moved about and got into close contact with others. Regional politicians from the Canary and Balearic Islands, two Spanish archipelagoes that are major tourism hubs, have also criticized the decree, which the central government made without consulting them first.

  • San Marino, a microstate surrounded by Italy, feared being left behind in Europe’s inoculation campaign. Now it has jumped ahead, with the Sputnik vaccine sent by an unlikely, faraway friend.

  • Turkey began administering Pfizer-BioNTech shots. With coronavirus infections surging and Ramadan approaching, the government also recently moved to reimpose strict social distancing measures, including a prohibition on the large gatherings for meals before sunrise and after sunset that are traditional during the Muslim holy month.


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