New Delhi: The coronavirus crisis appeared to escalate on Monday as the government reported 227 cases over the last 24 hours, the largest spike in a day. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare late on Monday night said the total number of coronavirus-positive cases in India has risen to 1,251 — this includes 1,117 active cases, 102 cured/discharged/migrated people, and 32 deaths.
However, the government maintained it was still in the local transmission stage. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, cautioned that fear and panic are becoming a bigger problem than the coronavirus.
The government also said there was no immediate plan to extend the 21-day lockdown period, which entered its sixth day on Monday, while the Indian Army dismissed as "fake" social media posts about a possible emergency declaration next month.
In its latest update, the Health Ministry said the death toll due to COVID-19 has risen to 32 and the number of total positive cases to 1,251, up from 1,024 positive cases and 27 deaths as of Sunday evening.
At 227, this is the largest one-day increase in the number of cases for India. At least 25 fresh cases were reported from Delhi alone, taking the national capital's tally to 97, as per the Delhi Health Department.
Interacting with organisations involved in social work via video conferencing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked them to counter misinformation and superstition on coronavirus as he observed that people have been flouting social distancing norms in the name of belief.
Modi also held a video-conference with 130 Indian missions abroad on COVID-19 and said extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions and referred to "unprecedented" and early steps taken by India since mid-January to reduce the risk of importing the coronavirus infection and prevent a large outbreak.
As fresh coronavirus cases were reported from various parts of the country, including Rajasthan, Haryana, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, the Delhi Police cordoned off a major area in Nizamuddin where several people showed symptoms of coronavirus after taking part in a religious gathering a few days ago.
Officials said over 2,000 delegates, including from Indonesia and Malaysia, attended the Tabligh-e-Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin West from March 1-15. More than 200 people have been admitted to hospitals after showing symptoms of the disease and test results for many of them are expected on Tuesday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal later ordered FIR against the person who led the congregation.
The Delhi government separately converted its 11 schools into night shelters in a bid to help migrant workers stay in the city during the lockdown period, which would be in addition to the existing 238 night shelters in the city.
The Health Ministry maintained the COVID-19 is still in local transmission stage in India and it took 12 days for cases of infection to rise from 100 to 1,000 at a rate of increase slower than some of the developed countries.
Addressing a daily press briefing, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal said it is still technically in the local transmission stage in India and there has been no community transmission as yet.
Earlier on Sunday, an SOP (standard operating procedure) issued by the Health Ministry had referred to the current phase of COVID-19 pandemic in India as "local transmission and limited community transmission".
Agarwal urged all to maintain social distancing, saying even one person's carelessness may lead to spread of coronavirus pandemic. He attributed the slow pace of rise in cases in India to people's participation in strictly following the social distancing guidelines and the collective preemptive actions taken by the Centre in tandem with state governments.
The worldwide tally of deaths crossed 35,900, with more than 26,000 people dying in Europe. Globally, more than 7,40,000 people have been detected positive so far, out of which nearly 1,42,300 have recovered, as per various reports.
Raman R Gangakhedkar, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said 38,442 tests have been conducted till now in India, out of which 3,501 were done on Sunday. He said 47 private laboratories have been given approval for conducting COVID-19 tests and in the last three days, 1,334 tests have been done in private labs.
The government has told all its departments to pay high priority to public grievances related to coronavirus.
The Railway Board told its zonal units to be ready to convert up to 20,000 train coaches into isolation wards for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Steps have also been initiated for releasing thousands of prisoners in overcrowded jails across the country on interim bail or parole in an unprecedented step to prevent the spread of coronavirus and also to avoid any clashes.
(With inputs from PTI)