India's daily coronavirus cases at about 20,000 as some cities extend lockdowns

India on Wednesday enters what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called "Unlock 2.0"

  
A health-worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) checks the temperature of a woman using an electric thermometer during a check-up campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a slum area in Mumbai, India June 29, 2020.

A health-worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) checks the temperature of a woman using an electric thermometer during a check-up campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a slum area in Mumbai, India June 29, 2020.

REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

CHENNAI/GUWAHATI, India - Several Indian cities prepared to extend their lockdowns to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, as daily cases in the country remained close to 20,000.

India reported 18,522 new cases over the previous 24 hours, according to federal health data released on Tuesday, down slightly from Sunday's record of 19,906.

With more than 550,000 total infections, India lags only the United States, Brazil and Russia in total cases.

More than 16,000 people have died in India - a low figure when compared with countries with similar numbers of cases - though experts fear its hospitals will be unable to cope with a steep rise in cases.

India on Wednesday enters what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called "Unlock 2.0", with many curbs on movement relaxed, though schools, cinemas, gyms and bars will remain shut.

But some states have imposed their own lockdowns in cities where there have been significant outbreaks.

The northeastern state of Assam, where authorities are struggling with the impact of floods that forced more than a million people from their homes, ordered a stringent two-week lockdown in the main city of Guwahati to tackle the coronavirus.

"We are witnessing a spike in local infections," the state's health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, told Reuters.

"There have been about 175 positive cases reported on Monday only in Guwahati, which is a matter of serious concern."

The southern state of Tamil Nadu extended a strict lockdown for its capital Chennai - known as 'India's Detroit' for its large car making industry - by five days. It also announced a closure of meat shops due to what officials said were large crowds gathering there.

"It is a ridiculous move since meat is essential, along with vegetables and medicines," said Prasanna Kumar, 30, a city IT employee.

(Reporting Sudarshan Varadhan in Chennai and Zarir Hussain in Guwahati Writing by Alasdair Pal Editing by Robert Birsel) ((Alasdair.Pal@thomsonreuters.com; +91 114 954 8060; Reuters Messaging: alasdair.pal.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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