India's COVID-19 death toll neared the 10,000-mark on Tuesday as the Centre scaled up the daily testing capacity to three lakh samples and Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated his sixth round of consultations with chief ministers in three months laying emphasis on both life and livelihood.
The country registered over 10,000 new COVID-19 cases for the fifth day in a row pushing the number of infections to 3,43,091 while the death toll rose to 9,900 with 380 new fatalities, according to the Union health ministry data. The country is in the eighth position in the global COVID-19 death tally which totalled 4,37,283.
Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi accounting for 70 per cent of the fatalities.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, said the COVID-19 situation in the country is worsening each passing day and not improving.
“You see the COVID-19 situation is not getting any better with each passing day. It is only getting worse in the country," a three-judge bench headed by Justice R F Nariman said while hearing a plea for extending the parole of a Punjab-based businessman accused in a drug racket case.
On Friday, the apex court said the COVID-19 situation was grim in Delhi and four other states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Gujarat.
In his video interaction, Prime Minister Modi said on the one hand health infrastructure should be boosted with emphasis on testing and tracing while on the other economic activity also needed to be increased.
Noting that it is important to review the experiences as "Unlock 1" for a graded exit from the lockdown completes two weeks, he said "timing" is very important to deal with any crisis and decisions taken at the right time have helped a lot in controlling the coronavirus infection in the country. 'Unlock 1' was set in motion on June 1.
"Today, the recovery rate in India is above 50 per cent... Death of anyone from coronavirus is tragic. For us, the death of even one Indian is discomforting. But it is also true that today India is among the countries in the world with the lowest deaths due to coronavirus," Modi said.
“We have worked day and night to save the lives of every Indian,” he told the chief ministers and Lt Governors of 21 states and union territories--his sixth interaction with them since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Around 52.46 per cent of the patients have recovered, the health ministry said. The number of active cases stood at 1,53,178 while 1,80,012 patients have recovered, it said in the daily COVID-19 update.
Modi also said the economy is showing "green shoots" as the country emerges from the coronavirus lockdown and asserted that the fight against the pandemic is a fine example of cooperative federalism where the Centre and the states are working together. The lockdown to fight the pandemic was imposed on March 25.
"Rail-road, air-sea, all routes have been opened. But despite this, despite our country being so populous, coronavirus infection in India has not shown the same devastating effect that it has shown in other countries."
Modi also struck a note of caution saying the slightest carelessness, laxity, lack of discipline will weaken all the fight against coronavirus. He asked the participants to continuously keep driving home the fact that danger of the virus is not over yet, and the need to remain vigilant while opening up the economy.
"We always have to keep in mind that the more we can stop coronavirus, the more it will stop growing, the more our economy will open, our offices will open, markets will open, transport will open, and so will new employment opportunities," he said.
On Wednesday, the prime minister will interact with chief ministers of 15 states, including Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and the LG of Jammu and Kashmir. These states are among the worst affected.
The Union health ministry said the capacity for testing COVID-19 is being continuously ramped up and now three lakh samples can be tested each day, as scientists and medical experts pushed for ramping up tests to also cover all asymptomatic cases in the identified red zones and hotspots across the country.
A network of 907 labs -- including 659 labs in the government sector and 248 in the private sector -- have been established as on date, the ministry said, reiterating that RT-PCR is the gold standard frontline test for diagnosis of COVID-19. RT-PCR is a throat/nasal swab test.
A total of 59,21,069 samples have been tested for COVID-19 so far with 1,54,935 samples analysed in the last 24 hours, it said.
Besides, in order to enhance the testing capacity in Delhi, each of the 11 districts shall now have assigned labs for exclusively testing the samples from the respective districts, the ministry said in a statement.
The samples from each district are being sent to these labs to ensure timely testing and getting the results without any delay.
Currently there are 42 labs in Delhi with daily testing capacity of about 17,000 samples.
At a video conference in Hyderabad, a group of medical experts and scientists said there is a need to evolve a rational state testing policy based on the local conditions rather than strictly adhering to the broad guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research.
The meeting by Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan with the experts including the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology Director Rakesh Mishra was convened to seek their opinion on evolving a "discrete, proactive and concrete strategy in combating COVID-19."
"Since lockdown is not an affordable option, for a prolonged period, the only strategy that can be adopted is test, trace and treat," the experts were also quoted as having said in a Raj Bhavan release.
Of the total 9,900 COVID-19 deaths, Maharashtra tops the tally with 4,128 fatalities followed by Gujarat (1,505), Delhi (1,400), West Bengal (485), Tamil Nadu(479), Madhya Pradesh (465), Uttar Pradesh (399), Rajasthan (301) and Telangana (187).
The death toll reached 100 in Haryana, 89 in Karnataka, 88 in Andhra Pradesh and 71 in Punjab. Jammu and Kashmir has reported 62 fatalities, Bihar 40, Uttarakhand 24, Kerala 20 and Odisha 11.
Jharkhand, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh have registered 8 deaths each while Chandigarh has reported 6 and Puducherry 5. Meghalaya, Tripura and Ladakh reported 1 fatality each, according to the health ministry.
More than 70 per cent deaths have occurred due to comorbidities, the ministry said. Comorbidity is the state of having multiple medical conditions at the same time,
The Union Health ministry also said that as part of efforts to provide reasonable health care to COVID-19 patients, some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh have reached an agreement with the private sector,
Amid possibilities of a likely shortage of healthcare infrastructure, the ministry asked states and UTs to proactively engage with private healthcare providers to facilitate enhanced bed availability and critical care health facilities and to ensure fair and transparent charges for services provided.
"Some states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have already taken the initiative.
"They have negotiated and reached an agreement with the private sector on reasonable rates and arrangements to provide critical care for in-patient COVID-19 admissions," the ministry said in a separate statement.
In a boost to the fight against COVID-19, the US handed over to India 100 ventilators, valued at about $1.2 million, as part of US President Donald Trump's offer of assistance to New Delhi.
US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster handed over the first shipment of 100 ventilators to Indian Red Cross Society Secretary General R K Jain at an event at the IRCS national headquarters in Delhi.