The doubling time of novel coronavirus cases has slowed to 13.9 days in the last three days and India now has a capacity of 1,00,000 COVID-19 tests per day with nearly 20 lakh carried out till now, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday.
His remarks came even as the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 2,549 and the number of cases climbed to 78,003 on Thursday.
The health ministry said an increase of 134 deaths and 3,722 cases have been registered in the last 24 hours since Wednesday 8 am.
The number of active COVID-19 cases stands at 49,219 while 26,234 people have recovered and one patient has migrated, it said.
"Thus, around 33.63 per cent patients have recovered so far," a senior health ministry official said.
Vardhan, who visited the National Centre for Disease Control in New Delhi and dedicated a COBAS 6800 testing machine to the nation, said 14 states and union territories have not reported any case of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
These states and union territories are Gujarat, Telangana, Jharkhand, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry.
Also, Daman and Diu, Sikkim, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have not reported any case so far.
"It is heartening that the last three days' (COVID-19) doubling time has slowed down to 13.9 days, while the doubling time in the past 14 days was 11.1," Vardhan was quoted as saying in a health ministry statement.
On ramping up testing capability, the minister said, "We have now developed a capacity to conduct 1,00,000 tests per day. Today marks an important milestone as we have carried out nearly 20 lakh COVID-19 tests at more than 500 laboratories -- 359 government and 145 private -- in the country."
Vardhan said the recovery rate has further improved to 33.6 per cent from 32.83 per cent on Wednesday, while the fatality rate is at 3.2 per cent.
He said as of Wednesday there were three per cent active COVID-19 patients in Intensive Care Units, 0.39 per cent on ventilators and 2.7 per cent on oxygen support.
Later, participating in the 32nd Commonwealth Health Ministers' Meeting through a video link, Vardhan said it is critical to build and strengthen core capacities of developing countries for future preparedness, response and resilience towards COVID-19.
He stressed on facilitating universal and affordable access to all relevant medical products and technologies, both existing and new.
Indian scientists are working on developing vaccine, drugs, cost-effective diagnostic kits and various life-saving equipment with the active support of the government, Vardhan said.
The Union health minister said that in implementing the world's largest lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, India's aim was to protect lives by mitigating the explosive spread of the disease and by ensuring that the country's healthcare system is able to cope with the rise in cases of the respiratory ailment.
"At the same time, we are mindful of saving lives as well as livelihoods and are, therefore, keeping all essential services out of the purview of the lockdown. We are gradually easing the restrictions, especially in areas where we have managed to contain the disease," he told the conference.
Vardhan also said India took all necessary and timely steps, including surveillance at points of entry, evacuation of nationals abroad, surveillance in community through disease monitoring network, health infrastructure strengthening, training and capacity building of health staff, risk communication and community involvement, as part of its management efforts.
India has provided essential medicines such as hydroxychloroquine to almost 100 "needy countries", extending solidarity and support during this time of crisis, he said.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to use one time RT-PCR based pooled sampling for COVID-19 screening among migrant workers and returnees from abroad kept in quarantine facilities.
The same testing technique would also be used for monitoring in green zone districts which have reported no cases till now or in the last 21 days, the health ministry said while issuing 'Guidelines for RT-PCR based pooled sampling for migrants/returnees from abroad/green zones'.
A total of 134 deaths deaths were reported since Wednesday morning, of which 54 were in Maharashtra, 29 in Gujarat, 20 in Delhi, nine in West Bengal, seven in Madhya Pradesh, four in Rajasthan, three in Tamil Nadu, two each in Telangana and Karnataka and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh.
Of the 2,549 fatalities, Maharashtra tops tally with 975 fatalities, Gujarat comes second with 566 deaths, followed by Madhya Pradesh at 232, West Bengal at 207, Rajasthan at 121, Delhi at 106, Uttar Pradesh at 83,Tamil Nadu at 64 and Andhra Pradesh at 47.
The death toll reached 34 Telangana, 33 in Karnataka and 32 in Punjab. Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir have reported 11 fatalities each due to the respiratory disease while Bihar has registered seven and Kerala has reported four deaths.
Jharkhand, Chandigarh and Odisha have recorded three COVID-19 fatalities each while Himachal Pradesh and Assam have reported two deaths each.
Meghalaya, Uttarakhand and Puducherry have reported one fatality each, according to the ministry data.
More than 70 per cent of the deaths are due to comorbidities, according to the ministry's website.