Delhi's local health minister in hospital, other officials test positive as India's coronavirus cases surge

A banquet hall is temporarily converted into isolation ward for Covid-19 patients in New Delhi on June 15, 2020.
A banquet hall is temporarily converted into isolation ward for Covid-19 patients in New Delhi on June 15, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - The health minister in Delhi's state government checked into hospital with high fever and was being tested for coronavirus on Tuesday (June 16) as India reported more than 10,500 new infections that are threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

India has opened up businesses, public transport and shopping malls to resuscitate a battered economy but the ending of the nearly 70-day lockdown has come just as cases are rising at their fastest daily levels.

The total number of infections stood at 343,091, the world's fourth most after the United States, Brazil and Russia, the health ministry data showed. At least 9,900 people have died, far fewer than the United States and Brazil, but more than Russia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who initially won praise for imposing a vast lockdown on India's 1.3 billion population early on in the pandemic, called state chief ministers for a video conference to discuss measures to deal with the surge in cases.

The big cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai remain the worst affected.

"Due to high grade fever and a sudden drop of my oxygen levels last night I have been admitted to RGSSH (Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital). Will keep everyone updated," Delhi's health minister Satyendar Jain said in a tweet.

He would be tested for the disease and results were expected by later Tuesday, a member of Jain's party said.

Several senior officials from finance, foreign affairs and law departments that are all based in Delhi have tested positive over the past few weeks. Most have been working in offices from the beginning of the crisis.

Mr Jain himself attended a meeting on Sunday where federal Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were present. It was not immediately known if Shah, seen as the most powerful member of the cabinet after Modi, was going to test.

Mr Kejriwal had tested negative earlier in the month.