Buyers gather as vendors auction sacks of lemons at Azadpur wholesale vegetable market after the government eased a nationwide lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in New Delhi on June 26, 2020. - India has been grappling with a huge surge in coronavirus infections in recent weeks as the country gradually eases a strict months-long lockdown. (Photo by XAVIER GALIANA / AFP) (Photo by XAVIER GALIANA/AFP via Getty Images)

INDIA will allow more domestic flights and interstate train services to operate but keep schools shut as the nation of 1.3 billion further eases its lockdown despite growing concern about rising coronavirus cases.

The South Asian nation reported 18,522 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, with this the tally reached to 566,840 as on Tuesday (30). The death toll has climbed to 16,893 with 418 new fatalities in a day.

India is the the fourth worst-hit in terms of case numbers after the US, Brazil and Russia.

But with the economy struggling during the shutdown, authorities have sought to restart activities while maintaining “containment zones” to try and limit the virus spread.

“Domestic flights and passenger trains have already been allowed in a limited manner. Their operations will be further expanded in a calibrated manner,” the home affairs ministry said in its “Unlock 2” guidelines.

The new measures — which also include a shorter night curfew — will come into force on Wednesday (1) and remain in place until the end of July.

The night curfew would be further relaxed to permit the movement of people and goods for work or when they take public transport, the ministry said.

Schools, metro trains in cities, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools would remain closed, while activities in “containment zones” would still be severely restricted, it added.

Under a major easing of the lockdown in early June, places of religious worship, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls were allowed to reopen.

The virus has particularly hit India’s densely populated cities and there are now major concerns for New Delhi which has overtaken Mumbai with more than 85,000 cases.

The government has been criticised over a lack of testing that experts say has hidden the true number of cases in India.