India eases restrictions as virus cases drop
India's capital New Delhi and its financial hub Mumbai began a gradual easing of restrictions on Monday as coronavirus infections in the country fell to a two-month low.
Hospitals in the cities – which have a combined population of some 40 million – were overwhelmed by a deadly COVID-19 wave in April and May, with severe shortages of oxygen and other critical medicines.
The huge spike saw India report record-breaking numbers of cases and deaths to become the second worst-hit nation after the United States with just under 29 million infections.
Authorities in Delhi and Mumbai, as well as other cities and states, had imposed restrictions on movement and activities to combat the surge.
"We have to stay safe from coronavirus infections and also bring the economy back on track," Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted yesterday.
The city's metro services were operating at 50 percent capacity and roads quickly filled up with vehicles. But local shopping areas remained quiet.
The northern city was reporting an average of 25,000 daily cases during its peak. It fell to 381 infections on Sunday, officials said.
Shopping malls reopen
Maharashtra, India's richest state of which Mumbai is the capital, eased restrictions based on infection rates and hospital bed occupancy.
In Mumbai – where the caseload soared to 11,163 in early April – there were just 794 new infections on Sunday.
Malls were reopened in the city with restrictions. But they were fully operational in cities with lower infection rates.
"This is a step in the right direction," said Rajendra Kalkar of Phoenix Mills, which manages three shopping centers in Maharashtra.
"Businesses at our malls are coming back slowly. This is a very welcome step for thousands of mall staff and retail employees."
The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India estimated that more than 2 million jobs were lost during the lockdown.
"We are very happy to open our doors again today," said the restaurant manager of the Mumbai branch of popular eatery Social, who gave his name as Malay.
On Monday, the southern Asia country reported over 100,000 infections and nearly 2,500 deaths.