NEW DELHI－Taj Mahal, India’s top tourist attraction, will stay closed as the country on Monday became the third-hardest-hit nation in the global pandemic with nearly 700,000 coronavirus cases.
The increase has made India the world’s third-worst-affected country, behind only the United States and Brazil. But India’s tally is not expected to peak for several more weeks and experts predict the 1 million figure will be passed this month.
Globally, more than 11,451,000 confirmed cases have been recorded with more than 534,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University in the US.
India’s major cities have been worst hit by the pandemic. New Delhi and Mumbai each has about 100,000 cases, with 3,000 dead in the capital and nearly 5,000 in Mumbai.
In the capital, medical staff started treating patients at a spiritual center converted into a sprawling isolation facility and hospital with 10,000 beds, many made of cardboard and chemically coated to make them waterproof.
About the size of 20 soccer fields, the facility on the outskirts of the city will treat mild coronavirus cases.
Local government officials fear Delhi, home to nearly 25 million people, could record more than half-a-million cases by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, other cities are also tightening restrictions on movement to head off a new surge in cases.
The Kerala state’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, imposed a new lockdown from Monday with public transport shut and only pharmacies allowed to open. The clampdown came after hundreds of new cases were reported across the state, which had been praised for its action to curtail the pandemic.
In another development, local authorities in the northern city of Agra said Taj Mahal, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, would remain closed to visitors even though the national government said it had permission to reopen on Monday.
Previously, India’s Culture Ministry had decided to reopen all monuments across the country on Monday after more than three months with a cap on the number of visitors and mandatory wearing of face masks.
The shining marble mausoleum has been closed since mid-March as part of measures to try to combat the pandemic.