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India adds 96K virus cases, orders some retests

NEW DELHI

India edged closer to recording nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours as it ordered retesting of many people whose first results were from the less reliable rapid antigen tests being widely used.

There were a total of 96,551 confirmed cases, taking the tally to over 4.56 million. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported another 1,209 deaths for a total of 76,271.

India has the second-highest caseload behind the United States, where more than 6.39 million people have been confirmed as infected.

The Health Ministry has asked states to allow testing on demand without a doctor’s prescription. It also said some negative rapid antigen tests should be redone through the more reliable RT-PCR method, the gold standard of coronavirus tests that looks for the genetic code of the virus.

The retesting order applied to people who had negative results but had fever, coughing or breathlessness, or those who developed the COVID-19 symptoms within three days of their negative test results.

The order was meant to ensure that infected people did not go undetected and to help check the spread the disease among their contacts.

Using the rapid antigen, or viral protein, tests has allowed India to dramatically increase its testing capacity to more than 1.1 million a day, but the quicker, cheaper test is less reliable and retesting is often recommended.

The directive came as 60% of India’s cases have been reported from only five of the country’s 28 states. However, experts caution that India’s outbreak is entering a more dangerous phase as the virus spreads to smaller towns and villages.

With the economy contracting by a record 23.9% in the April-June quarter leaving millions jobless, the Indian government is continuing with relaxing lockdown restrictions that were imposed in late March.

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