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Some Indian cities prepare to ease curbs as Covid numbers fall

NEW DELHI India reported 114,460 new coronavirus infections yesterday, the lowest in two months, as parts of the country prepared to ease movement restrictions.

India has the world's second-largest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, with total cases at 28.8 million, according to Health Ministry data. With 2,677 fatalities recorded yesterday, the total number of Covid-19 related deaths in the country now stands at 346,759.

A second wave of the coronavirus that has largely battered the rural interiors of the country is yet to abate, but New Delhi and other cities are working towards allowing more businesses to operate and easing movement rules from today.

MARKETS, MALLS REOPEN

Markets and shopping malls in New Delhi will reopen from today. Delhi Metro will also resume services at 50 per cent capacity, the city's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

Markets and malls will operate on alternate days, with half of them open on any given day.

Offices can also reopen at half capacity but Mr Kejriwal urged people to still try and work from home.

The easing comes after Delhi allowed construction sites and factories to reopen last week.

"They have been open for a week but the Covid-19 situation is still under control, and we have had fewer than 500 fresh cases in the last 24 hours," Mr Kejriwal said.

"It is important to bring the economy back on track now that the Covid-19 situation is improving. We pray the situation remains the same."

The government of Maharashtra state, which includes India's economic powerhouse Mumbai, announced a five-level plan to ease restrictions depending on infection rates and hospital bed occupancy.

In level one areas - with infection rates below 5 per cent and hospital bed occupancy below 25 per cent - all shops, restaurants and malls will be allowed to reopen.

But level five districts - with infection rates over 20 per cent - will remain under severe movement restrictions.

India's vaccination programme meanwhile is making slow progress due to shortages, confusion and squabbling between the central government and state authorities.

So far about 180 million people, only 14 per cent of the population, have received one dose, and 45 million, or 3.4 per cent, two shots.- REUTERS, AFP

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