Coronavirus: India deaths overtake UK’s to become fourth worst-affected country in the world

Religious leader who shared stage with prime minister among those infected

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 13 August 2020 17:04
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Footage showed India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, shaking hands with Hindu priest who later tested positive for virus
Footage showed India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, shaking hands with Hindu priest who later tested positive for virus

India has now recorded more coronavirus deaths than the UK, making it the fourth worst-affected country in the world, as it set another daily record for new cases.

The nation’s death toll stands at 47,033, while the UK has seen 41,329 deaths, according to the Department of Health.

India saw another record jump in its surging coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the health ministry, with 66,999 new infections being reported, leaving it behind only the US and Brazil.

It now has 2.4 million infections in total after reporting 50,000 cases or more each day over the last fortnight.

Among those infected was a religious leader who shared a stage with India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, during a ceremony to launch the construction of a controversial new temple in the town of Ayodhya.

Nritya Gopal Das, an 82-year-old Hindu priest, was the latest public figure to test positive after a string of Mr Modi’s top cabinet colleagues became infected.

Mr Modi and Mr Das were among 170 people who attended the launch of the temple construction on 5 August.

Dr Murli Singh, director of information in Ayodhya, said Mr Das had tested positive and was being moved to a hospital near Delhi. But he added that at the time of the ceremony the priest tested negative and so had not posed a risk of infection to the prime minister.

Dr Singh said those invited for the launch were all clear of the virus at the time.

“Guidelines were sent to all that only Covid-19 negative people will be allowed in the ceremony,” he said, adding doctors on the ground in Ayodhya had run tests before the event started.

The planned temple at Ayodhya is on a disputed site where Hindu groups have campaigned for decades.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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