The nationwide count of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 1.68 lakh on Friday with a record number of nearly 7,500 people testing positive for the dreaded virus infection across states and union territories. The death toll crossed 4,700, but recoveries also rose sharply to surpass 81,000.
Those contracting the virus included people from varied walks of life -- from police to prisoners, from cabin crew to healthcare workers and from migrants to a minister. Those losing their lives included a 58-year-old CISF personnel posted at a warship building in Kolkata and a 65-year-old Gulf returnee in Kerala.
On the positive side, several states and union territories also announced a large number of COVID-19 patients getting cured and discharged, taking the cumulative number of nationwide recoveries so far to more than 81,700 -- showing an increase of more than 11,000 since Thursday night.
The number of active cases declined by more than 5,000 to nearly 82,000- still the fifth highest globally after the US, Russia, Brazil and France.
The number of cases has been rising sharply over the past few days amid eased lockdown restrictions, resumption of domestic flights and continuing services of migrant trains between states and of special international flights for bringing back stranded Indians and expatriates from abroad.
While a nationwide lockdown has been in place since March 25, several relaxations have been given in the ongoing fourth phase that is scheduled to end on May 31. Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and informed him about the views of chief ministers on future course of action on the lockdown.
Officials said the Centre is likely to retain a limited role and allow states and union territories to take decisions on whether to tighten or give additional relaxations in their respective jurisdictions from June 1.
The central government may, however, advise states to continue with strict curbs in COVID-19 containment zones in the worst-affected 30 municipal areas, including in Mumbai and Delhi, that account for 80 per cent of the positive cases in the country.
In its morning update, the Union Health Ministry said the death toll due to COVID-19 has risen to 4,706 in the country, while the number of cases climbed to 1,65,799, registering an increase of 175 deaths and a record jump of 7,466 cases in 24 hours since Thursday 8 AM.
It put the number of active cases stood at nearly 90,000 and recoveries at over 71,000, giving a recovery rate of 42.89 per cent.
However, a PTI tally of figures announced by states and UTs, as of 9.40 PM, showed a higher number of 1,68,386 confirmed cases and the nationwide death toll of 4,784. It also showed at least 81,702 recoveries, leaving nearly 82,000 active cases across the country.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown also appeared in a key economic data of the eight core infrastructure sectors, as their combined output declined by a record 38.1 per cent in April.
"In view of nationwide lockdown during April 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, various industries - coal, cement, steel, natural gas, refinery, crude oil etc experienced substantial loss of production," the Commerce and Industry Ministry said in a statement.
Another key data showed India''s GDP growth tumbling to 3.1 per cent in the March quarter -- the slowest pace since the global financial crisis more than a decade back -- but the worst is yet to come as the full impact of the lockdown will get accounted for only in the numbers for the ongoing April-June quarter.
The national capital reported a record number of 1,106 new cases to take its tally to over 17,000, while its death toll rose to 398, though the Delhi government appealed to the people not to panic.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted on Friday, "My Delhiites do not worry if you contract corona. Most of you can be treated in home quarantine itself. Still, if you need to be admitted to hospital, we have full preparations for it. I pray to the god for your good health and happiness."
"Corona patients who have no or mild symptoms can recover at their home. They need not get admitted to hospital," he said.
As many as 11 healthcare workers, including two resident doctors, also tested positive at the country''s premier medical institution AIIMS in the national capital, taking the total number of hospital staff infected so far to 206. However, more than 150 healthcare personnel have recovered and have joined back duties.
In the national capital, a Rajya Sabha Secretariat official also tested positive, making it the fourth such case reported from the Parliament complex. Two floors of the Parliament Annexe building have been sealed, officials said.
Doordarshan News has also shifted its operations from Mandi House to its studio in Khelgaon after a 53-year-old video journalist employed with it tested positive for coronavirus following his death, officials said.
In Kerala, 62 new cases were reported and the death toll rose to eight after a 65-year-old Gulf returnee succumbed to the virus. Those testing positive included a health worker, two cabin crew of Air India and two prisoners also, taking the infection count in the state to 1,150.
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, recorded 2,682 new cases and 116 deaths on Friday, it also saw 8,381 COVID-19 patients - the highest for one day -- getting discharged from hospitals across the state.
In Gujarat, the number of confirmed cases grew to 15,944 after 372 new cases were detected in the last 24 hours, while 20 patients succumbed to the infection to take the state''s death toll to 980,
In Tamil Nadu, nine more people succumbed to COVID-19, while its tally of confirmed cases saw the biggest single-day spike of 874 cases.
Odisha reported 63 new cases, of which 61 had recently returned to the state from various parts of the country and were in different quarantine centres. Two persons were detected with the infection following contact-tracing exercises.
A minister in West Bengal has also tested positive for COVID-19, a source in the state government said.
In Kolkata, A Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel posted at a warship manufacturing facility succumbed to the novel coronavirus. This was the fourth COVID-19 death in the force and the second from the unit posted at this Kolkata-based PSU.
While 41 CISF personnel from this unit have tested positive so far, 38 of them have been discharged and only one is under treatment at present, sources said.
In Kolkata, at least four healthcare workers at a hospital and 10 police personnel also tested positive.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in the meantime, announced a slew of relaxations from the lockdown from June 1, including for restarting of private and public sector offices with full attendance and reopening of shrines.
Government offices in Uttarakhand, including the state secretariat and the Vidhan Sabha, will also revert to normal working hours from June 1, a state government order said.
Uttarakhand reported a record number of 216 new cases, while West Bengal recorded 277 fresh cases and seven more deaths.