India reported another single-day record high of new virus cases Friday while its monuments like the Taj Mahal will reopen for tourists next week.
The 20,903 new cases took the national total to 625,544. The Health Ministry also reported another 379 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking fatalities up to 18,213.
With the current rate of infections, India is expected to surpass Russia’s 660,000 cases in coming days and become the third worst-hit country after the United States and Brazil. It has the eighth-most fatalities in the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, but both numbers are thought to be far higher than has been confirmed around the world.
After a strict two-month lockdown, India has eased its restrictions in most of the country except for the highest-risk areas.
The Culture Ministry decided to reopen all monuments Monday with a cap on the number of visitors and mandatory masks.
South Korea, meanwhile, has reported 63 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to mobilize public health tools to the southwestern city of Gwangju, where more than 50 people were found sickened over the past week.
The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought the national caseload to 12,967 infections, including 282 deaths.
Thirty-one of the new cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.
Six of the new cases came from Gwangju, where officials have raised concern over possible shortages in hospital capacities, while 13 of them came from the southeastern city of Daegu, which had been the epicenter of a major outbreak in February and March.
The municipal government of Gwangju, which had one of the smallest caseloads among major South Korean cities before this week, has shut hundreds of schools and banned gatherings at wedding halls, banquet facilities and senior welfare centers to stem the transmissions.
Neighboring provinces are providing dozens of hospital beds and planning to send medical personnel to help Gwangju deal with the spike of infections.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday.
Despite the warning, Kim reaffirmed North Korea’s claim to not have had a single case of COVID-19, telling a ruling party meeting Thursday that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus” despite the worldwide health crisis.
Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms. Experts say the country’s self-imposed lockdown is hurting an economy already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.
The Korean Central News Agency said Kim during the politburo meeting of the Workers’ Party “stressed the need to maintain maximum alert without a slight self-complacence or relaxation” as the virus continues to spread in neighboring countries.
The agency said Kim sharply criticized inattentiveness among officials and violations of emergency anti-virus rules and warned that a “hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis.”