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India's Richest State Set to Reopen Schools as Omicron Cases Fall

Mumbai: Even though it had the largest number of infections nationwide, India's wealthiest state will reopen schools next week, its education minister said on Thursday, as new instances of the Omicron variant of coronavirus declined drastically.

India recorded a new eight-month high with 317,532 new infections in the last 24 hours, while mortality increased by 491, close to this month's highest, albeit the total includes 85 from a prior wave in Kerala's southern state.

In Mumbai, the financial capital, daily new infections fell on Wednesday to 6,032, down from an all-time high of 20,971 on Jan. 7, municipal figures showed.

The city is also the capital of the western state of Maharashtra, which reported India's highest total of new infections at 43,697.

"We were getting demands that schools should start," state education minister Varsha Gaikwad told reporters. "We have decided to reopen schools from Grade 1 to Grade 12 from Monday."

The spike in infections had prompted the closures early in January, after most grades resumed temporarily last month.

In the national capital of New Delhi, where Omicron infections have also fallen sharply since the surge this month, city authorities said they were considering lifting curbs.

Delhi has shut schools, private offices, restaurants and has imposed weekend curfew.

Authorities say India's rates of hospital admissions and deaths in its third wave of disease, caused this time by the milder Omicron variant, are lower than last year's figures, when the Delta variant killed hundreds of thousands.

India's tally of infections rose to 38.22 million, the second highest after the United States, while the death toll reached 487,693.

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