India fears virus wave, Italy marks a year

·2-min read

A spike in coronavirus cases in India has raised fears of a fresh wave of the pandemic, while Italians with heavy hearts have marked a year since their first virus case.

Six Indian states have seen a surge of COVID-19 cases and have been asked to regularly monitor new strains through testing and genome sequencing, a federal health ministry bulletin said on Sunday.

The latest spike in cases has raised concerns that new mutations of the virus may lead to a fresh wave of the pandemic after a substantial slowdown of the virus' spread between September and January.

A dozen samples tested in a state-run laboratory in Maharashtra had shown that the new variations were not the ones found in Britain, South Africa or Brazil, news channel NDTV reported. Further testing was being done to see if they were local variants.

India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has recorded nearly 11 million cases of coronavirus, the highest number in the world after the United States.

The infection rate had steadily fallen but on Sunday India reported 14,264 new cases, the highest daily rate in three weeks.

A week-long curfew has been imposed in Maharashtra's Amravati district, where there was an almost 50 per cent spike in cases over the past four weeks.

Meanwhile on Sunday, Italians marked one year of COVID-19, with wreath-laying ceremonies, tree plantings and church services held.

A memorial for coronavirus deaths was unveiled in Codogno in northern Italy, where Europe's first case of locally spread COVID-19 was found a year ago.

Towns in Italy's north were the first to be hard hit by the pandemic and put under lockdown, and residents paid tribute to the dead.

Italy, with some 95,500 confirmed deaths, has Europe's second-highest pandemic toll after Britain. Experts say the virus also killed many others who were never tested.

The number of new coronavirus infections has remained stubbornly high in Italy despite a raft of restrictions on travel between regions. There's still a 10pm to 5am nationwide curfew.

Elsewhere in Europe, police in Amsterdam cleared anti-lockdown demonstrators from the city's Museum Square on Sunday after they ignored instructions to leave.

Large numbers of people were out in the city's streets and parks despite a ban on public gatherings, after an abrupt turn in the weather to sunny skies and mild temperatures.

At Sunday's demonstration, some were carrying signs saying "freedom" but others appeared simply to have just joined the throng of mostly young people.

Police on horses broke up crowds and a handful of protesters were detained.

The Netherlands saw several days of rioting in January, when an evening curfew was added to other lockdown measures.