New Delhi, May 21: India’s COVID-19 tally crossed 1.16 lakh on Thursday with more than half of it getting reported in just about a fortnight amid large-scale movement of migrants in special trains and arrival of stranded Indians and expatriates from abroad. The government, however, stressed that the mortality rate in India has remained less than half of the global average of 6.65 per cent.
Authorities also announced detailed guidelines for resumption of domestic flights after a gap of two months, while business activities and public movement gained further momentum on the fourth day of the much-relaxed fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown that has been in place since March 25.
At the same time, the Centre asked all states to ensure strict implementation of the existing lockdown conditions, including a night curfew from 7 PM to 7 AM, saying it has noticed violation of the restrictions at several places.
In a directive to all states and union territories, the Union Home Ministry sought strict adherence to its guidelines, including for wearing of face covers, ensuring social distancing at work, transport and in public places, maintaining hygiene and sanitation etc, for containing the spread of COVID-19.
The nationwide death toll due to the deadly virus infection has neared 3,500 with a mortality rate of about 3 per cent, while more than 47,000 have recovered so far. At least 15 other countries have recorded more deaths than India so far.
However, India’s tally of active cases at over 65,000 is now the fifth largest in the world after the US, Russia, Brazil and France.
While India is the 11th worst-hit in terms of the number of overall cases detected so far, some of the ten most affected countries now have fewer active cases than India and those include Spain, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Iran.
In its morning 8 AM update, the Union Health Ministry said the death toll due to COVID-19 has risen to 3,435 and the number of confirmed cases to 1,12,359 in the country, registering an increase of 132 deaths and 5,609 cases in the last 24 hours. It put the number of active cases at 63,624 and recoveries at over 45,000.
However, a PTI tally of figures announced by different states and union territories, as of 9.30 PM, showed a higher number of confirmed cases at 1,16,295 and the death toll at 3,494. It showed an increase of 5,705 cases and 139 fatalities since Wednesday evening, while recoveries also rose during this period by more than 2,700 to 47,487.
More than half of this cumulative number of confirmed cases have been reported since May 8 — the day when the morning update by the Union Health Ministry had put the number of confirmed cases at 56,342.
India reported its first COVID-19 case on January 30, while the 100-mark was reached 45 days later on March 15. However, the 1,000-mark was reached much faster on March 29 and the 10,000-mark was breached on April 13. The 50,000-mark was breached on May 6, while it took less than two weeks for the next 50,000 cases with the one-lakh mark being reached on May 18.
Globally, more than 50 lakh people have tested positive for the deadly virus infection since its emergence in China last December, while nearly 3.3 lakh have lost their lives. More than 19 lakh people have recovered so far.
The government officials have said that the time taken in India for the case count to move from 100 to one lakh has been much better at 64 days, which was better than many other badly-hit countries and actually double the time taken in the US and Spain.
In a statement, the Union Health Ministry said timely case identification and proper clinical management have helped India keep its mortality rate lower.
It also said that more than 3,000 people have been cured in the last 24 hours itself and the overall recovery rate is improving continuously and has crossed 40 per cent now.
The Ministry said all patients are under active medical supervision, while around 2.94 per cent of all active cases in ICU.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said there has been a 1000-fold increase in the number of COVID-19 tests done per day in the last two months. More than 25 lakh tests have been done so far.
A noted public health expert and epidemiologist, however, cautioned that India may witness COVID-19 cases peaking in mid-July if the current lockdown is lifted this month-end, but also hoped that there could be a “lower surge” in the wake of strong containment measures taken in the past two months.
“If the lockdown is lifted on May 30, then we will have peak around mid-July because if you take three incubations period, which is one-and-half months, that will be enough for you to know how the disease spreads when nothing is controlled,” Giridhara R Babu, Professor and Head of Life Course Epidemiology at the Public Health Foundation of India, told PTI.
Several states and UTs continued to report new cases, with the national capital itself recording the highest single-day spike of 571 fresh cases to take its total to 11,659. This was the third consecutive day when 500 or more fresh cases have been reported in a day in Delhi.
Gujarat reported 371 new cases to take its tally to 12,910, while 233 fresh cases were found in Ahmedabad itself. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani launched a week-long campaign to educate citizens on issues related to COVID-19 and said that people should learn to live with coronavirus while fighting against it.
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in India, recorded 2,345 new cases, taking the tally in the state to 41,642. This was the fifth consecutive day when the state has reported more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases.
Tamil Nadu, another badly hit state, recorded more than 700 new cases for the second straight day to take its tally to close to 14,000.
State’s Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar said the government was facing “new challenges” by way of many among those returning to Tamil Nadu from other countries and states testing positive for the deadly virus, some after the mandatory exit test conducted after seven days.
The state recorded 776 new cases on Thursday and the infected included those who had returned from other countries including the US and states like Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal and Kerala. At least seven people died also, taking the state’s death toll to 94, while the cumulative tally of positive cases touched 13,967.
In Tamil Nadu, at least 61 foreign returnees have tested positive so far. Of these, 25 had initially tested negative right after their arrival, but they turned positive during the exit screening after seven days.
New cases were reported from Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as well, among other states.
In many of these states, the new cases largely included people having returned from other states or in some cases from abroad.
Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary, Medical and Health, Amit Mohan Prasad told reporters that migrant workers coming from other states are being monitored by health workers and a number of them have tested positive.
“Over 5.42 lakh migrant workers were screened by health workers and among them 1,230 have been found positive for coronavirus. Samples of 46,142 have been sent for testing,” he said.
In Barabanki itself, 245 samples were sent for testing on May 15-16, out of which 95 have been found positive for the virus infection.
Among those who tested positive, 49 are migrants who had recently returned from other states, while the remaining 46 are those who had come in contact with six infected persons and had been kept in isolation, district administration officials said.
In Bihar also, detection of more than 1,000 cases in the last three weeks has been mainly attributed to the large-scale influx of people who have been returning to the state from places they had been stuck in during the lockdown.
A similar trend has been seen across various states after special trains began operating on May 1 to ferry migrant workers back to their native places, while there have also been cases, including in Goa and Kerala, of those people testing positive who were brought back from abroad in special flights. (PTI)