According to the health ministry data, India reported more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day on Saturday
India on Saturday recorded its steepest increase of 22,771 new coronavirus cases, taking the case count to 6,48,315 while the toll rose to 18,655 with 442 new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry's data.
This is the second consecutive day when coronavirus cases have increased by more than 20,000. According to news agency PTI, the country has reported 4,57,780 COVID-19 cases from 1 June till date.
Amid the rising cases, while some states relaxed restrictions in some areas, others announced new ones.
The Tamil Nadu government announced a relaxation of restrictions in Chennai from 6 July, including allowing take-away service at restaurants, but extended curbs for Madurai and nearby regions till 12 July.
In the neighbouring Karnataka, the state government imposed a 33-hour lockdown in Bengaluru on Saturday in bid to curb the rising number of cases. The state will also undergo its first Sunday lockdown on 5 July.
In West Bengal, the Kolkata airport announced that it will not allow any flights for two weeks from six worst-affected cities, including Mumbai and Delhi.
In the meantime, the ICMR, which has been embroiled into a controversy over fast-tracking the development of India's first likely COVID-19 vaccine, COVAXIN, clarified that the decision was take to cut 'unnecessary red tape' and that it's following all the globally accepted norms.
Recovery rate rises to 60.81%, says health ministry
According to the health ministry's morning update, the number of recoveries stands at 3,94,226 with 14,335 COVID-19 patients having been cured since 8 am on Friday. The number of recovered patients exceeded the active cases by 1,58,793 as of Saturday and the recovery rate has increased to 60.81 percent, said the health ministry. There are 2,35,433 active cases of COVID-19 presently in the country, the data showed.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a cumulative total of 95,40,132 samples have been tested up to 3 July with 2,42,383 samples being tested on Friday. "The efforts to expand the testing labs network in the country have led to their numbers increasing every day. There are as many as 1,087 labs in the country — 780 labs in the government sector and 307 private labs.
"Facilitation of widespread testing by States/UTs has spurred the number of samples tested every day," the health ministry said.
Of the 442 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, 198 are from Maharashtra, 64 from Tamil Nadu, 59 from Delhi, 21 from Karnataka, 18 each from Gujarat and West Bengal, 14 from Uttar Pradesh, 10 from Rajasthan, eight each from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, five from Punjab, four each from Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, three from Bihar, and two each from Assam and Odisha.
Of the total 18,655 deaths reported so far, Maharashtra accounted for the highest with 8,376 fatalities, followed by Delhi with 2,923 deaths, Gujarat with 1,904, Tamil Nadu with 1,385, Uttar Pradesh with 749, West Bengal with 717, Madhya Pradesh with 593, Rajasthan with 440 and Karnataka with 293.
The COVID-19 death toll mounted to 283 in Telangana, 255 in Haryana, 206 in Andhra Pradesh, 157 in Punjab, 119 in Jammu and Kashmir, 80 in Bihar, 42 in Uttarakhand, 29 in Odisha and 25 in Kerala.
Maharashtra has also reported the highest number of cases at 1,92,990, followed by Tamil Nadu at 1,02,721, Delhi at 94,695, Gujarat at 34,600, Uttar Pradesh at 25,797, West Bengal at 20,488 and Telangana at 20,462, according to the ministry data. The number of COVID-19 cases has gone up to 19,710 in Karnataka, 19,052 in Rajasthan, 16,934 in Andhra Pradesh, 16,003 in Haryana and 14,297 in Madhya Pradesh.
"Our figures are being reconciled with the ICMR," the ministry said, adding that 4,999 cases are being reassigned to states.
Process to fast-track COVID-19 vaccine trial follows global norms, says ICMR
In the meantime, ICMR issued a statement saying that it is acting in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential.
Earlier in the day, experts cautioned against rushing the process for developing a COVID-19 vaccine after the ICMR stated it plans to launch one by 15 August. Political leaders too alleged that the process was being fast-tracked so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could make the announcement on Independence Day.
But...scientific advances can never be ‘made to order’.
Forcing the development of an indegenous vaccine as a cure for Covid-19, bypassing all health & safety norms, to be announced by PM Modi on Independence Day is fraught with horrendous human costs. #Covid_19 #Vaccine #ICMR pic.twitter.com/x2xbPFvRyy
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) July 4, 2020
The ICMR, however, said that it is important to expedite the clinical trials for a promising indigenous vaccine in larger public interest. All other vaccine candidates across the globe have been similarly fast-tracked, it said, adding that the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has accorded permission to conduct Phase 1 and 2 (human) clinical trial of 'COVAXIN' based on in-depth scrutiny of the available data from pre-clinical studies.
The statement said that the letter by ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava to principal investigators of the clinical trial sites was meant to cut unnecessary red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and speed up recruitment of participants.
Bhargava had on 2 July written to principal investigators of select medical institutions and hospitals to fast-track human clinical trial approvals for the vaccine candidate being developed in collaboration with Bharat Biotech.
"ICMR is committed to treat the safety and interest of people of India as a topmost priority," the statement further said.
Relaxations in Chennai from 6 July
In Tamil Nadu, which reported 4,280 fresh COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths on Saturday, Chief Minister K Palaniswami announced relaxations in the intense lockdown in Chennai from 6 July while extending curbs for Madurai and nearby regions till 12 July.
Chennai and its suburbs had been under a complete lockdown since 19 June with only essential services being allowed. From Monday, grocery shops can open between 6 am to 6 pm while take-away service at restaurants will be allowed between 6 am to 9 pm, said the chief minister.
With the exception of malls, all kinds of showrooms and other businesses including textiles and jewellery can be back in business and work from 10 am to 6 pm, he said.
In Madurai and its surrounding areas only essential services would be allowed to function while no kind of activities shall be permitted in containment zones, said the chief minister, appealing to people to co-operate in the fight against the pandemic.
In Bengaluru, which reported 1,172 of Karnataka's 1,839 new cases, a complete lockdown has been imposed from 8 am on Saturday till 5 am on Monday, reported ANI.
The lockdown will be applicable within the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike limits and sale of essential items, including meat, will be allowed, said BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar while warning of strict action against those found outdoors unnecessarily.
Flights from six cities to Kolkata temporarily suspended
In light of the spurt in coronavirus cases across the country, no flights will operate to Kolkata from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Nagpur and Ahmedabad between 6 July and 19 July, the Kolkata airport said.
It is informed that no flights shall operate to Kolkata from Delhi,Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur,Chennai & Ahmedabad from 6th to 19th July 2020 or till further order whichever is earlier. Inconvenience caused is regretted.@AAI_Official @MoCA_GoI @ushapadhee1996 @HardeepSPuri @arvsingh01
— Kolkata Airport (@aaikolairport) July 4, 2020
Meanwhile, the state reported the highest single-day surge in both, COVID-19 fatalities and cases, as 19 people succumbed to the disease and 743 more tested positive for the virus, the state health department said.
The toll mounted to 736, while the state's coronavirus tally shot up to 21,231, a bulletin released by the department said.
Maharashtra, Kerala report new cases
New cases were also reported in Delhi, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan, among other states and UTs.
Kerala reported its highest single-day spike of 240 fresh cases, pushing the case count to 5,204. Of the new cases, 152 had come from abroad and 52 from other states, health minister KK Shailaja said in a press release adding that the number of COVID-19 hotspots in the state has gone up to 135.
Maharashtra reported 7,074 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, pushing the total number of cases to 2,00,064, said a state health department bulletin. The toll rose to 8,671 with 124 deaths reported in the last 48 hours and 171 added from the previous period, it stated.
Mumbai alone recorded 1,180 new cases and 68 deaths, according to the city's civic body.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray held a review meeting with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) official and stressed on increasing tracing and testing of suspected coronavirus patients. Mortality rate due to the viral infections in the city also should be reduced, the chief minister said.
The Mumbai Police tweaked its two-kilometre radius diktat imposed to curb needless travel and allowed people to move around in the nearby neighbourhood. In a tweet, the police said people were "permitted to shop closer to home (5 am to 9 pm)" and asked them not to forget IDs and other documents while travelling for work.
Delhi recorded 2,505 fresh coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the city to 97,200, while the toll from the disease mounted to 3,004. Fifty-five fatalities have been recorded in the last 24 hours, while 26 earlier deaths have been included in the cumulative figure, the Delhi health department said in a bulletin.
Bihar CM, Deputy CM take COVID-19 test
In Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi sent their respective swab samples for COVID-19 testing as Legislative Council Acting Chairman Awadhesh Narayan Singh was found to have contracted the infection.
According to ANI, Kumar has tested negative for the virus, while results for Sushil's samples are awaited. Sushil along with Kumar and others had shared the dais with Singh, a BJP leader, at the oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected MLCs on 1 July.
With inputs from agencies