The nationwide tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases crossed the 2-lakh mark on Tuesday with almost one lakh people testing positive for the dreaded virus infection in the last 15 days.
The government, however, said its preventive measures to contain the disease have been very effective, as shown by a much lower fatality rate than several other countries.
Authorities also said the recovery rate of COVID-19 patients was improving consistently in India and it was in a much better position in handling the pandemic, which has seen more than 63 lakh people testing positive for this virus since its emergence in China last December and over 3.7 lakh having lost their lives.
In its morning update, the Union Health Ministry said the novel coronavirus death toll has risen to 5,598 in India with 204 more fatalities in 24 hours since Monday 8 am, while 8,171 new cases were detected during this period to take the overall tally to 1,98, 706.
This included more than 97,500 active cases, while more than 95,000 have recovered.
However, a PTI tally of figures announced by different states and union territories as of 10.05 pm showed the cumulative count of confirmed COVID-19 cases having risen to 2,00,321 and the death toll of 5,739.
It also showed a higher count of recoveries at 99,613, leaving nearly 95,000 active cases across the country.
A real-time global coronavirus tracker of Johns Hopkins University & Medicine showed India's tally of positive cases at 2,01,997 as of 10.15 pm.
India's first COVID-19 case was detected in Kerala on January 30, while the tally took 110 days to reach the one-lakh mark on May 18.
However, close to one lakh new cases have been detected in 15 days since then.
On the positive side, this is the first time in seven days that the count of new cases has come down, while the 24-hour death toll also came down considerably from 230 recorded by the Union Health Ministry on Monday morning -- the second-highest after an all-time high of 265 deaths recorded on May 30 morning.
Testing infrastructure has also been ramped up considerably in India in the recent months with an average of 1.2 lakh tests being conducted every day now.
So far, close to 40 lakh tests have been conducted in India, putting it among the top-five nations globally on this parameter alongside the United States, Russia, United Kingdom and Spain.
However, India does not figure even among the top-100 countries when it comes to tests per one lakh population.
At present, India is the world's seventh worst hit nation in terms of overall case count, after the US, Brazil, Russia, the UK, Spain and Italy.
While more than 18 lakh cases have been detected in the US so far, Brazil has over 5 lakh cases and Russia has over 4 lakh.
The UK tally is nearly 2,8 lakh cases, followed by close to 2.4 lakh in Spain and about 2.3 lakh in Italy.
In terms of the death toll, the US tops the global tally with more than 1.05 lakh fatalities, while India does not figure among the top-10 countries on this parameter.
More than 27 lakh have recovered so far across the world, with the US again topping this chart with nearly 4.6 lakh recoveries, followed by Brazil, Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Iran, India and China in the top-ten.
In terms of active cases, India figures among the top-five nations, while the US again is on the top with more than 11 lakh active cases.
The government said India is far away from the peak of COVID-19 spread and its preventive measures have been 'very effective', putting it in a much better position in comparison with other countries.
Addressing a press conference on the COVID-19 situation, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said it is wrong to just look at the total number of cases and state that India has the seventh highest number of cases as the population of countries also should be taken into account.
About 14 countries with a cumulative population almost equal to that of India have reported 55.2 times more COVID-19 deaths, he said.
"Our COVID-19 fatality rate of 2.82 per cent and amongst the lowest in the world, compared to a global fatality rate of 6.13 per cent. We have been able to achieve this due to timely identification of cases and proper clinical management," Agarwal said.
He also said that India's COVID-19 case fatality rate per lakh population is 0.41 per cent as against 4.9 per cent globally which is also amongst the lowest in the world.
Agarwal said one in every two COVID-19 deaths in India has been of senior citizens who constitute 10 per cent of the total population, while 73 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in the country are of people with comorbidities.
Asked if India has entered the community transmission phase, Indian Council of Medical Research scientist Nivedita Gupta, who was also present at the briefing, said, "Instead of using the word community transmission, it is important to understand the extent of spread of the disease and where do we stand in comparison with other countries."
When asked when the peak will arrive, Gupta said, "We are very far away from the peak. Our preventive measures to curtail the disease are very effective and we are better positioned in comparison with other countries. You will get to see the data in a week."
She also said there was no under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in India.
There has been a continuous mismatch in the data made public by the central government and the tallies announced by some states and union territories for deaths as well as confirmed cases.
Several states and UTs, including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Puducherry reported rising number of cases on Tuesday.
Many of the states, including those in the North-East, reported new cases linked to people having returned from outside.
In Tripura, a 50-year-old woman allegedly committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling of a toilet in an Agartala hospital, a day after her swab sample was tested for COVID-19.
The police suspects she had developed a fear of contracting the disease and may have committed suicide out of panic.
Her test came positive for the novel coronavirus, hours after she had already died.
In Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, a four-month-old baby girl also tested positive for COVID-19 in Amravati district.
The state reported 2,287 new cases, taking its overall tally to 72,300, while fatalities rose to 2,465 after 103 more patients succumbed to the infection, the state health department said.
On the positive side, as many as 1,225 patients were discharged from hospitals during the day, taking the state's count of recovered cases to 31,333.
Gujarat, another badly hit state, reported 415 new cases and 29 deaths, taking the overall case count to 17,632 and fatalities to 1,092, the state health department said.
A total of 1,114 COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals during the day, taking the tally of the recovered cases to 11,894, it said.
In the national capital, at least 13 employees of the Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal's office and six other government officials tested positive for COVID-19, sources said. These included junior assistants, drivers and peons.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched an app named 'Delhi Corona' that will give information to patients about the availability of beds in private and government hospitals.
He said cases are increasing in the national capital, but sufficient arrangements have been made for ventilators and beds in hospitals.
"We are several steps ahead of coronavirus," the chief minister said.
West Bengal registered its highest single-day spike of 396 cases, taking its tally to 5,772.
Kerala also recorded its highest single-day spike of 86 positive cases, taking the state's tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,412.
Besides, a 77-year-old priest died at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital, taking the death toll to 11.
Uttarakhand also saw its tally crossing the 1,000-mark after 85 more people tested positive.
Five COVID-19 positive family members of the state's tourism minister Satpal Maharaj were readmitted to a hospital within hours of being discharged from the facility.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, said India will definitely get back its economic growth and reforms undertaken during the lockdown will help the economy in the long run.
His comments came a day after global rating agency Moody's downgraded India's credit rating to just a notch above the junk status on growth concerns.
"On the one hand we have taken tough steps to fight the virus and on the other, we have taken care of the economy... We have to save the lives of citizens while also stabilise the economy and speed up growth," Modi said while addressing top industry body CII's annual session.
A comprehensive review of various studies, published in the renowned Lancet journal, in the meantime said that physical distancing of two metres or more can prevent person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.
It also found that face masks and eye protection may decrease the risk of infection too.
The systematic review of existing evidence was commissioned by the World Health Organisation, the researchers said.