India logs slimmest rise in COVID-19 cases in 543 days despite festivals

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India reported 7,579 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the smallest rise in one-and-a-half years despite huge festival gatherings in recent weeks, thanks to rising vaccinations and antibodies from prior infections.

The country of 135 crores celebrated Durga Puja in October and Diwali this month, during which lakhs of people shopped, traveled, and met family, mostly without masks. Mask-wearing is nearly non-existent outside the big cities.

“Even after Diwali, we are not seeing a surge,” said M.D. Gupte, a former director of the state-run National Institute of Epidemiology, attributed it mainly to the presence of antibodies in a huge majority of Indians through natural infection.

Government surveys have estimated that nearly 70% of Indians had been naturally infected by July, following a record rise in infections and deaths in April and May.

So far, 81% of India’s 94.4 crore adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 43% have had two doses. Vaccination for people under 18 has not yet begun.

India has reported a total of 3.45 crore COVID-19 cases, second only to the tally in the United States. India’s COVID deaths rose by 236 in the past 24 hours to 466,147.

Daily testing has also fallen, dipping below 10 lakhs on Monday compared with a capacity of more than 20 lakhs.

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