The nationwide tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases crossed the two lakh mark on Tuesday with almost a lakh 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 coronavirus death toll has risen to 5,598 in India with 204 more fatalities in 24 hours since Monday 8am, 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 10.05pm 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 10.15pm.
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 30th 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 US, Russia, UK 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-ten countries on this parameter.
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.
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 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.