As the number of novel coronavirus cases in India nears 7 million, the country’s Central Bank projected that the economy would contract by 9.5% this fiscal year.

After a meeting of India’s monetary policy committee on Friday morning, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Shaktikanta Das, said: “The Indian economy is entering into a decisive phase in the fight against the pandemic.”

“For the year 2020-21 as a whole, therefore, real GDP is expected to decline by 9.5 per cent, with risks tilted to the downside. If, however, the current momentum of upturn gains ground, a faster and stronger rebound is eminently feasible,” Das said in a statement after the meeting.

He said the meeting unanimously decided to “leave the policy repo rate unchanged at 4%.”

According to the official statistics released in September, India’s economy contracted by nearly a quarter from April to June, when the country went into a complete lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Das said: “By all indications, the deep contractions of Q1:2020-21 are behind us; silver linings are visible in the flattening of the active caseload curve across the country.”

India’s already-battered economy took a fresh hit with the pandemic and the related economic fallout. The country ground to a halt after it imposed a nationwide lockdown in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In June, the country started to resume economic activities in a phased manner.

According to the Health Ministry, COVID-19 cases crossed the 6.9 million mark as the country registered over 70,000 new cases in the last 24 hours, official figures revealed.

With 964 new deaths reported across the country, the death toll reached 106,490.

Doctors, nurses on strike

Meanwhile, in the capital New Delhi, hundreds of doctors and nursing staff of a public hospitals designed for COVID-19 patients continued their strike due to unpaid salaries.

The doctors have now threatened to withdraw from COVID-19 services if salaries are not paid.

An official release issued Friday said the country continues to report a trend of steadily “dipping active cases.” “After a month, for the first time, active cases fell below the 900,000 mark. India registered 893,000 active cases today after registering 897,000 on 9th September.”

Experts in the country say India may even surpass the US — the worst-affected country worldwide — in the severity of the pandemic.

If the country continues to see similar figures as recorded Friday, COVID-19 cases will cross 7 million in the next two days.

According to John Hopkins University, which compiles the coronavirus figures, India is ranked second globally in number of cases and third in number of deaths.

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