• AFP-JIJI

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A lockdown was reimposed on 15 million people in southern India on Friday as the number of coronavirus infections in the hard-hit nation neared 400,000.

New restrictions in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, and surrounding districts followed a surge of cases, even as the rest of the country of 1.3 billion people gradually resumes normal life.

During the 12-day lockdown, food shops and petrol stations will be allowed to open between 6:00 am and 2:00 pm.

People can only travel within two kilometers (1.2 miles) of their homes except for medical emergencies.

“If someone calls me for air conditioner servicing then I will walk over if it is within a two-kilometer radius,” said Kumar, the owner of an electrical repair shop in Chennai where normally bustling streets were quiet.

“But I heard that the cops are going to be really strict about movement on the streets after 2:00 pm.”

India has recorded more than 380,000 cases of COVID-19, the fourth-highest in the world, with over 12,500 deaths, health ministry data show.

Many experts say limited testing means the real figures are likely much higher.

This week India hiked its official death toll by more than 2,000 after financial hub Mumbai increased the number of fatalities by almost 900 following an audit of its data.

The virus is raging across South Asia, home to some of the most crowded and poorest cities in the world, overwhelming hospitals and crematoria.

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