India and Pakistan have experienced their largest single-day increase in coronavirus infections, confirming more than 14,700 cases between them Friday, as the virus shows no sign of peaking in South Asia.
Each country now exceeds the number of reported cases from China, where the pandemic originated.
India, with the highest coronavirus count in Asia, reported 9,851 additional infections Friday. Its daily tallies are now higher than any country's except for the United States, Brazil and Russia. Neighboring Pakistan reported 4,896 new cases Friday. Its total of 89,249 cases has surpassed China's tally for the first time, with its most populous Punjab province accounting for the largest share of infections.
In India, the biggest cities – Mumbai and New Delhi – have been worst affected.
India's Health Ministry on Friday also reported 273 additional COVID-19 deaths – its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. The country's total number of cases now stands at 226,770 – out of a population of nearly 1.4 billion. Only about 4 million people have been tested.
India's spike comes as its economy reopens after the world's biggest lockdown, which sparked desperation among the country's poor. At least 100 million Indians have lost their jobs.
On Thursday, the government issued new guidelines for places of worship, restaurants, hotels and shopping malls – some of which will be allowed to reopen Monday. Schools across India remain shut, and international flights halted.
The sudden spike in Pakistan, with a population of some 212 million people, comes nearly a month after Prime Minister Imran Khan brushed aside warnings from experts and eased a nationwide lockdown. The government in recent days was reportedly considering renewing stay-at-home orders. But in a nationwide address Monday, Khan said he decided against that.
"The world has agreed, the richest countries have come to the conclusion that the virus will spread no matter what. Nothing can be done about it," he said. "The virus will spread and our death toll will also rise."
Instead Khan said the government had decided to "open all the sectors" except those where the threat of the virus "is still present."
On Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged $15 million to GAVI, the international vaccine alliance. India is the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, and an Indian company, Serum Institute of India, on Thursday signed a deal to cooperate on producing one billion doses of a possible vaccine against COVID-19.
"Humankind faces a clear common enemy," Modi said Thursday. "India not only has the capacity to contribute to the global health efforts, but also has the will to do so in a spirit of sharing and caring."
NPR producer Sushmita Pathak contributed to this report.