India said Thursday its coronavirus cases have surpassed the 8 million mark, adding over a million cases in the past 18 days alone.
The world's second-most populous country is fast approaching the United States, which leads the world in infections at over 8.8 million cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said the nation reported 49,881 new cases and 517 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the nation's total death toll to 120,527.
The ministry said the pace of daily infections has started to slow, with fewer than 50,000 new cases reported in the past four days.
According to the ministry, the country recorded 83,232 average daily new cases from Sept. 23 to Sept. 29, but the figure declined sharply to 49,909 from Oct. 21 to Oct. 27.
While India has been witnessing a decline in daily new infections, the capital city of New Delhi recorded over 5,000 new cases on Wednesday, the highest since the outbreak of the virus in the country, according to local media.
The city has recently been affected by an increase in air pollution levels, which, according to health experts, may worsen the impact of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus. They suggest that higher pollution levels in the winter season can lead to inflammation of the respiratory tract, predisposing people to other infections, including the coronavirus.
The air quality in the city improved drastically earlier this year after the government imposed a stringent nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Besides vehicular and industrial pollution, the air quality of New Delhi typically worsens in the winter when the farmers in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana burn crop stubble to clear fields.
The central government imposed a nationwide lockdown from late March to the end of May and has been easing restrictions in stages since June.
However, on Tuesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs said plans devised in September for reopening the country's economy on Oct. 31 had been extended until Nov. 30.
The decision comes as concerns mount about a pick up in the spread of the virus amid an ongoing major Hindu festival season.