New Delhi cases spike again ahead of Diwali fest

(AP) — India reported 47,905 new cases of coronavirus infection with New Delhi setting another daily record Thursday.

The surge of 8,593 cases in the nation’s capital is the highest for any major Indian city and comes as people crowd shopping areas ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on Saturday.

Deaths, too, are climbing again, with 85 in New Delhi in the past 24 hours. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the impact of the virus, due to long periods of illness and medical treatment.

Overall, India’s new cases held steady. The Health Ministry also reported 550 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 128,121.

India’s tally of confirmed cases — currently the second largest in the world behind the United States – has exceeded 8.6 million.

Meanwhile, the New Delhi High Court ordered authorities to take the surging coronavirus spread seriously as people were ignoring masks and social distancing norms.

The Delhi government says that cases are projected to rise to nearly 12,000 daily by the end of November and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has written to the federal health ministry stating that its hospitals would need over 20,000 more beds for treating patients.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Health officials in New Zealand have asked people who work in central Auckland to stay home on Friday or limit their movements while they continue to investigate a coronavirus case from an undetermined source. Authorities say they’re urgently investigating the recent movements of the Auckland student who works at a clothing store. They say the student lives next door to a hotel where people arriving from abroad are being quarantined, some of whom have tested positive over recent weeks. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says authorities are testing the genome of the student’s case to see if there is a connection to the hotel cases, and they will announce Friday whether they’ll be changing New Zealand’s alert levels. The case comes as a blow to a country which has been largely successful in its attempts to eliminate community spread of the virus. Hipkins says the large response to a single case “reflects the fact that we are in a very fortunate position compared to other countries around the world, and that we’re not dealing with community transmission cases on a regular basis the way that other countries are.”

— A South Korean court has granted bail for a religious sect leader who was arrested in August over allegations that he disrupted the government’s anti-virus response after thousands of COVID-19 infections were found among worshippers in February and March. The Suwon District Court on Thursday cited concerns about the health of 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and said he was no longer a serious threat to destroy evidence considering the prosecution’s progress in investigation. The court required Lee to wear electronic tracking devices and not to leave his home. Prosecutors have accused Lee and his church of violating infectious disease laws by deliberately hiding some of the church’s membership and under-reporting its gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying that the church has been properly cooperating with health authorities. More than 5,200 of the South Korea’s 27,942 coronavirus cases have been linked to the church.