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India sees COVID-19 cases soar past 14 million amid 'alarming' rise in infections

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A woman waits to get tested at a COVID-19 testing center in Hyderabad, India, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. The country is grappling with a rise in COVID-19 infections.
A woman waits to get tested at a COVID-19 testing center in Hyderabad, India, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. The country is grappling with a rise in COVID-19 infections.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Coronavirus case numbers in India have soared past the 14 million mark, with the country recording more than 200,000 new infections on Thursday alone.

In addition to the 200,739 new cases, India's Health Ministry reported at least 1,038 fatalities from COVID-19 within a 24-hour time span, bringing the country's death toll up to 173,123.

“The surge is alarming,” SK Sarin, a government health expert, told The Associated Press.

In India's capital, New Delhi, health officials have struggled to cope with the surge in new cases.

With hospitals overwhelmed, officials have ordered more than a dozen hotels and wedding banquet halls to be converted into COVID-19 centres.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, the country's biggest city and financial centre, lockdown-like measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus have seen the city subdued months after many had thought the worst of the pandemic was over.

Back in September, infections had begun to drop, easing pandemic fears across the country.

However, just months later in February, cases began to rise again with the surge in infections reaching worrying levels over recent weeks.

On Wednesday, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with state governors about the COVID-19 situation as he championed efforts to push the country's vaccination programme forward.

The prime minister described India's fight against the recent surge in cases as a "battle" and said citizens needed to be reminded once again of their "duty" to keep each other safe, according to a press release shared by his office.

"Discussing the rise in the number of COVID cases, the Prime Minister said that in this stage of the fight against the virus, the country stands to gain from last year’s experience and improved healthcare capacity," the press release said.

Modi also discussed the need to increase testing capacity, as well as efforts to track and trace to prevent the spread of COVID-19.