(Reuters) – The South Asia sub-region surpassed 10 million COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, led by India where officials have been concerned Diwali celebrations could derail a recent fall in infections.
South Asia – consisting of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka – accounts for 18% of global cases and almost 11% of global deaths, according to the Reuters tally.
It is the second sub-region, after the North America, to cross the 10 million case threshold. (https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/dgkvlajjlpb/)
The South Asian countries account for 23% of the world’s population of 7.59 billion people.
India, the only Asian country among the top ten countries worst affected by the pandemic, accounts for about 90% of both the sub-region’s cases and deaths. (https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/nmovadyywpa/)
India has reported a steady decline in daily reported cases in recent weeks. It has recorded a daily average of around 39,500 new cases over the past week, less than half the 92,890 seven-day average in the middle of September.
However, experts had warned that exuberant celebrations for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, over the past weekend could lead to a new spike.
India’s eastern neighbour Bangladesh, the world’s biggest apparel producer after China, is South Asia’s second worst hit country with about 438,000 coronavirus cases. Officials there last week extended the closure of schools and other educational institutions amid fears of a second wave of infections during the winter.
Cases were on the rise again in Pakistan, where on Friday more than 2,000 cases were reported in a single day for the first time since July. Officials responded by banning public political rallies following days of huge anti-government demonstrations.
In Nepal, the number of cases crossed 200,000 this week with nearly half reported in the capital Kathmandu and its surrounding areas. The Himalayan nation on Tuesday announced that it will provide free COVID-19 tests and treatment.
Bhutan is the only country with zero fatalities in the South Asia region.
The United States remains the worst affected nation with about 11.5 million COVID-19 cases. It this week became the first country to reach 250,000 deaths.
(Reporting by Shaina Ahluwalia and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)