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India reported more than 16,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, a 27% rise from the day before, according to the country’s Ministry of Health — as doctors brace for a potential third wave driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

India’s Omicron case numbers have more than tripled this week, with at least 1,270 infections now recorded, compared to 358 last Friday.

Health secretary Lav Agarwal called it a “sharp increase” during a news conference Thursday.

According to the head of India’s Covid-19 task force, VK Paul, the rise “could be part of the global rise in cases pushed by Omicron.”

“This variant is highly transmissible and that perhaps explains the speed in which it is rising,” he said Thursday.

Meanwhile, as five Indian states gear up for elections in early 2022, political parties have held a number of events drawing large crowds, particularly in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous.

Many people have stopped wearing face masks, and are getting tested less frequently than before.

Local restrictions: While the national government has issued no restrictions on large gatherings, it has outlined Covid protocols for states to impose depending on their local situation. At least 13 states and several major cities have imposed restrictions.

In the capital, New Delhi, all social, cultural, political and festival gatherings are banned until further notice. Bars and restaurants are capped at 50% capacity, with face masks required for entry. Gyms and pools are shut entirely. A night curfew was announced Tuesday.

In Mumbai, all social, religious and political gatherings — including weddings and professional functions — are capped at 50% indoors and 25% outdoors until further notice.

Vaccination status: Just over 63% of India’s adult population are fully vaccinated as of Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health, while 90% are “partially vaccinated.”

India has reported a total of 34.8 million Covid-19 cases and 481,080 related deaths, according to the ministry.

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