MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s ability to rein in a surging coronavirus outbreak hinges on its 10 most populous states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday, urging regional leaders to ramp up testing and contact tracing.
India has more than 2.2 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the third highest tally after the United States and Brazil.
“If we can defeat corona in these 10 states, the country will win,” Modi said in a video conference with state chief ministers.
The 10 states accounted for 80 percent of its 639,929 active cases and 82 percent of its 45,257 deaths, Modi said.
India has reported at least 50,000 cases every day since July 30, and experts worry that the already burdened health system may not be able to take the strain as infections spread to the hinterland.
Modi said five states, including the two poor northern provinces of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that have a combined population of more than 300 million, need to ramp up testing.
Experts have cited India’s low testing rate as a cause for concern.
India currently has a mortality rate of 1.99 percent, lower than the global average of 3.65 percent, but Modi said state governments should aim to push it lower.
In recent days, the coronavirus has infected a number of Indian politicians, including former President Pranab Mukherjee, who was put on ventilator support after undergoing surgery, media reported on Tuesday.
Mukherjee, 84, president between 2012 and 2017, also led the federal defence, foreign and finance ministries over a decades-long career.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Nick Macfie)