New Delhi: The coronavirus death toll in the country on Tuesday rose to 124 and the number of cases climbed to 4,789, registering an increase of 508 cases in the last 24 hours, according to data from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The numbers surged amid hectic discussions for a possible extension of the 21-day lockdown beyond April 14 as several states announced plans to ramp up their testing infrastructure and put in place strong 'cluster containment' plans in areas identified as hotspots of the outbreak.
While the number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 4,312, as many as 352 people were cured and discharged and one has migrated to another country, it said. The total number of cases include 66 foreign nationals. Nearly 1.1 lakh tests have been conducted so far in the country.
However, according to PTI, a tally of figures reported by various states as on 9.45 pm on Tuesday showed 5,192 testing positive across the country and at least 162 deaths.
Fresh cases were reported on Tuesday from Delhi, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu among other states, while Maharashtra reported at least 150 more testing positive to take the state's tally to 1,018. Maharashtra is the only state to have crossed the 1,000-mark in terms of positive cases while 12 more died in the state on Monday to take the toll to 64. At least 40 have died in Mumbai alone while more than 600 have tested positive in the country's financial capital.
However, no fresh cases were reported from various states and union territories including Chattisgarh, Chandigarh, Goa, Jharkhand, Laddakh, Manipur, Mizoram, Odisha, Puducherry and Uttarakhand.
Officials said the national lockdown and social distancing measures have helped contain the pandemic in a big way in India. Citing a study from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Health Ministry said just one COVID-19 patient can infect as many as 406 people in 30 days in the absence of preventive measures.
With the preventive measures, the possibility of the infection can be reduced to an average of just two-and-a-half persons per patient in the same period, said ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal.
He said social distancing works like a "social vaccine" in management of COVID-19, but refrained from commenting on whether the ongoing nationwide lockdown would be extended or lifted after April 14.
"Whenever a decision is taken, it will be informed. Till a decision is officially communicated, please refrain from speculation," he said.
There has been a nationwide lockdown since March 25, though some states had initiated such measures a few days earlier, to check the pandemic that has claimed more than 75,000 lives worldwide since its emergence in China last December. Over 13 lakh people have tested positive for the virus across the world so far.
There were also indications about possible relaxations from a complete lockdown for some sectors, including agriculture and unorganised labour sector, at least in a few states, while there were also talks about even stronger area-specific restrictions in some places.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said some relaxation on work front for unorganised sector workers was on anvil. She, however, made it clear that all must practice social distancing. The state government has identified seven COVID-19 hotspots in West Bengal.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, however, said his government will extend the lockdown if needed, while his Rajasthan counterpart Ashok Gehlot said the state cannot withdraw the lockdown immediately and it has to be done in a phased manner.
A Karnataka government minister said it's too early to take a call now on lifting the nation-wide lockdown but appeared favouring an extension by at least two weeks.
(With inputs from PTI)