More than 125 million people in India were put under a new lockdown yesterday, as international dignitaries gathered in Spain to honour coronavirus victims while infections surged across the world.
Governments in many countries have been forced to reimpose restrictions as COVID-19 refuses to fade, having officially infected nearly 13.6 million people, killed more than 584,000 and crippled the global economy since it emerged late last year.
The virus has been running rampant through the United States and Latin America, and the Red Cross has warned that South Asia is fast becoming the next epicentre.
"While the world's attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia," said John Fleming, Asia-Pacific head of health for the organisation.
After India registered more than 600 deaths in a single day, the 125 million people in impoverished Bihar state, neighbouring Nepal, started a new 15-day lockdown yesterday.
"We have not faced such a situation in my life before, it is really a horrible experience," housewife Radhika Singh said in Bihar, where all schools, clubs, temples and non-essential businesses were ordered closed.
Badly-hit Spain honoured its more than 28,000 virus dead at a solemn state ceremony joined by bereaved families and top EU and World Health Organization figures on Thursday.
The memorial, held barely three weeks since Spain ended its state of emergency, comes as the country fights more than 120 active outbreaks.
"Today, we are symbolically saying goodbye to mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends," Hernando Calleja, who lost his brother in April, said at the ceremony.
Spain's King Felipe VI said that "this act cannot heal the pain felt by so many families at not being at the side of their loved ones in their final hours".
"But what it can do is pay tribute to their lives, to their contribution to our society, to their memories."
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany was preparing plans for tougher, more localised lockdowns to contain fresh outbreaks.
France meanwhile said it will make mask-wearing compulsory in indoor public spaces from next week after an uptick in infections.
The United States has recorded by far the most deaths and infections in the pandemic, setting a record on Wednesday with more than 67,000 new cases in 24 hours.
And the country's outbreak is showing no sign of slowing down, the virus surging in the south and west, with the latest research indicating the number of US deaths will pass 150,000 by next month.
US President Donald Trump fired his campaign manager for November's election late Wednesday after his popularity plummeted over his response to the crisis.
Trump has repeatedly attempted to discredit the country's top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, who has called for an end to the bickering.
"We've got to almost reset this and say, 'Okay, let's stop this nonsense'," Fauci told The Atlantic magazine.
Walmart, the world's largest retailer, said customers would need to wear masks at all its 5,300 stores from Monday, joining a growing group of American businesses to mandate face coverings.
Deaths in Latin America have topped 150,000, making it the world's second-hardest-hit region after Europe.
In a rare positive sign, China reported its economy bounced back with a better-than-forecast 3.2 percent expansion in the second quarter. But the news was unable to lift the gloom in stock markets.
Most cinemas in China will be allowed to reopen next week, with social distancing rules in place, after domestic infections remained at zero for 10 straight days.
The world's hopes have turned to a vaccine to bring the cycle of deaths, lockdowns and economic carnage to an end.
Two new studies have raised hopes of a potential vaccine in the near future.
Yesterday, British media reported that an Oxford University trial had showed its prototype vaccine generated an immune response against the virus.
The potential development comes after American biotech firm Moderna -- a leader in the race for a vaccine -- said it would start the final stage of human trials on July 27.