Coronavirus: India ramps up tests as South Asian cases top 12,000

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India said on Friday it ramped up coronavirus testing as documented cases there rose above 6,700 and topped 12,000 across South Asia.

The epidemic has killed 206 in India, data shows, with its capital Delhi and financial hub Mumbai emerging as hotspots, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under pressure to extend a 21-day nationwide lockdown beyond Tuesday, when it is due to end.

In neighbouring Pakistan, where the official tally climbed to 4,601 cases and 66 deaths, a crowd of worshippers attacked police enforcing lockdown rules outside a Karachi mosque when the officials tried to stop them from offering a congregational prayer, said city police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon.

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Authorities earlier warned of tough penalties if people went to mosques for Friday prayers. The lockdown rules allow only five people to pray at a time, but many more gathered in individual mosques last week.

India's lockdown of 1.3 billion people has left millions out of work and forced an exodus of migrant workers from the cities to their homes in the hinterland.

But officials have warned that widespread transmissions could be disastrous in a country where millions live in dense slums, social distancing norms are often impossible and the health care system is overburdened.

16,000 people tested a day

The government said on Friday it had increased daily tests for coronavirus on Thursday to more than 16,000 people - from a previous daily average of 5,000-6,000 - but only 320 people were found to be carrying the disease.

“We are not finding many positives,” senior health ministry official Lav Agarwal told reporters.

An internal assessment by a government body, the Indian Council of Medical Research, forecast the number of virus cases would have hit 820,000 by mid-April without the 21-day lockdown.

The state government of Delhi, where a religious gathering by a Muslim missionary group last month caused a spike in cases, has said it may have to extend the restrictions.

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