New Delhi: The number of COVID-19 deaths inched towards 100 on Saturday and the count of confirmed infections rose by a new single-day record of over 600 to cross 3,600, but the government assured there was no need to panic as the rate of spread was less than in many other countries and just "one place" accounted for 30% of the detected cases.
The Health Ministry said the testing capacity has been ramped up significantly to over 10,000 tests per day to detect the deadly coronavirus infection as it emphasised on continuous compliance to lockdown and social distancing measures, along with personal and environmental hygiene, to win this "daily battle".
Officials said at least 1,023 confirmed cases of infection have been found to be linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the national capital last month, but massive efforts by various authorities have led to nearly 22,000 people linked to the religious grouping and their primary contacts getting quarantined. Overall, tens of thousands are quarantined but their overall number could not be ascertained.
The Tablighi-linked infections, found across 17 states, including Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, showed that almost 30% of them are from "one particular place where we could not sort of understand it and manage it", Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said.
The government has also drawn out a containment plan to contain the outbreak within defined geographic areas as clusters posing high risk of further spread have emerged in several states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, UP, Punjab, Karnataka, Telangana as also in Delhi and Ladakh.
The ministry said 211 districts are now reporting COVID-19 cases, posing a high risk of further spread of the virus unless contained.
The data shared by Agarwal and other government officials in their daily press briefing on Saturday afternoon showed that an average of one in 25 people tested for the infection have found to be a positive case, while the mortality rate among those testing positive appeared even less at one in 30.
Officials said the number of daily tests has doubled to more than 10,000 from about 5,000 a few days ago. While the number of government labs has increased to over 100, several private labs have also been roped in, Agarwal said.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said 79,950 samples have been tested so far across the country.
Globally, more than 11 lakh people have tested positive so far since the outbreak last December, which has left over 60,000 dead. The United States alone has seen over 2.7 lakh confirmed cases while it recorded nearly 1,500 deaths within 24 hours between Thursday and Friday. Italy has recorded the maximum deaths at nearly 15,000.
Agarwal said a total of 2,902 COVID-19 cases have been reported so far in India, with an increase of 601 in last 24 hours -- the highest for such a period -- with at least 58 of them in critical condition in Kerala, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh. In the same time span, 12 more died taking the nationwide toll to 68, he said.
Later, the Ministry's evening update put the total number of those having tested positive at 3,072 nationwide, with 75 deaths.
However, a PTI tally of figures reported by states directly showed at least 97 deaths across the country while the number of confirmed cases of infection had reached 3,619 as of Saturday late evening. Of them, close to 300 have been cured and discharged.
There has been a lag in the Union Health Ministry figures, compared to the aggregate of numbers announced by different states, which officials attribute to procedural delays in assigning the cases to individual states.
Maharashtra reported a sharp increase in the number of cases to 635 with 145 positive cases getting diagnosed on Saturday, while Rajasthan, Assam, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat also reported rise in infections since Friday night, while more deaths were reported from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
The Public Health Department of Maharashtra government said most of the new 145 patients were tested by private laboratories over the last few days, and the results were validated by government labs on Saturday.
Agarwal said the rate of doubling of cases is still very low in India, compared to many other countries, but it must be kept in mind that the country is dealing with a communicable disease and fighting a daily battle.
"We may be successful today, but may not be so tomorrow and to win this battle we need support of everyone including the public," he said, emphasising the need for continuously following the lockdown and social distancing measures, as also personal and environmental hygiene. "We are as strong as the weakest link in this chain and we can win this battle only with support of everyone."
Cases on the rise
Of the total 445 confirmed cases in Delhi, 301 are from the Nizamuddin congregation, the health department said. The national capital's adjoining Noida also reported eight fresh cases of infection, taking the the total in Gautam Buddh Nagar district to 58.
Uttar Pradesh reported a significant increase in the number of coronavirus cases to 227, including 94 cases linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi last month. Of these, 21 have fully recovered while others are undergoing treatment at hospitals, officials said. Two have died in the state so far.
Within Maharashtra, more than 50 new cases were reported from Mumbai itself, taking the total cases in the country's financial capital to 330. Besides, at least 22 have succumbed to COVID-19 in Mumbai so far. More than nine lakh people have been surveyed and screened for coronavirus infection in the city.
Across Maharashtra, six patients died on Saturday, taking the state's COVID-19 toll to 32. Among other states, 11 have lost lives in Telangana and 10 each in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
In terms of confirmed cases also, Maharashtra tops the tally with over 600 cases, while Tamil Nadu and Delhi have reported over 400 cases and Kerala has more than 300 cases. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana have reported over 200 cases each, while it is more than 100 in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Jammu & Kashmir reported 17 new cases on Saturday, taking its tally to 92. At least two have died in the union territory.