With Delhi facing a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla is likely to hold a review meeting with officials of the Union health ministry and Delhi government on Monday.
PTI quoted a health ministry official as saying that Bhalla's review meeting on the situation in Delhi is part of the regular review of all Union Territories on a rotational basis.
An overall picture of the COVID-19 situation across the nation on Saturday showed that the total tally of cases rose to 81,37,119 with 48,648 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours. The number of recoveries crossed the 74 lakh mark, pushing the recovery rate to 91.34 percent, the Union Health Ministry said.
The country's toll climbed to 1,21,641 with 551 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. However, the case fatality rate has dropped to 1.49 percent.
Additionally, the number of active COVID-19 cases remained below 6 lakh for the second consecutive day. There are 5,82,649 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country, which comprise 7.16 percent of the total caseload, the data stated.
Among the new cases on Saturday is Union minister Santosh Gangwar's family. Gangwar said on Saturday that his wife and six other family members have tested positive for COVID-19. The 71-year-old minister too underwent test for COVID-19 and his report came negative.
Gangwar told reporters that his family members had recently gone to Delhi where they contracted the infection. All of them have been admitted to the ESI Hospital in Faridabad.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission on Saturday announced that the BJP's promise of providing free COVID-19 vaccine in its Bihar election manifesto is not violative of the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct. The saffron party's poll promise had created controversy with Opposition leaders, journalists, and political commentators criticising the "politicisation" of the pandemic.
Responding to a complaint by RTI activist Saket Gokhale, the Commission said, "...no violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed..." Gokhale had claimed that the promise is discriminatory and a misuse of powers by the Centre for the polls.
Centre says 'test, trace, track, treat' strategy helped curb deaths
India's COVID-19 case fatality rate (CFR) fell below 1.5 percent on Saturday, the Union health ministry said, crediting the Centre-led strategy of 'test, trace, track and treat' for keeping coronavirus-related deaths low and within manageable numbers.
Deaths per million population in the country stand at a very low level of 88, it added. The ministry said 23 states and Union Territories have a CFR lower than the national average, while 65 percent of the total deaths so far were recorded in five states.
There is a steady and consistent decline in the number of daily deaths, the ministry said in a statement. "On a progressive decline, the CFR has dropped to 1.49 per cent as on date. Also, 23 states and UTs have CFR lower than the national average."
"The strategy of 'test, trace, track and treat' has focused on effective containment strategy, aggressive testing and standardised clinical management protocols based on a comprehensive Standard of Care approach which includes use of anticoagulants and non-invasive oxygen," the statement said.
The ministry also said that the effective implementation of the strategy by state and UT governments has resulted in early identification, prompt isolation and timely clinical management of hospitalised cases.
BJP's free vaccine promise not violation of poll code, says EC
Holding that the BJP's promise free COVID-19 vaccine in its Bihar manifesto "is not violative" of MCC, the EC said, "The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution enjoin upon the State to frame various welfare measures for the citizens and therefore there can be no objection to the promise of such welfare in election manifesto."
PTI quoted sources as saying that the commission cited certain guidelines for election manifestos contained in Part VIII of the Model Code of Conduct to conclude that the free vaccine promise was not violative of it.
Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled, the other provision cited by the EC said.
"It is stated that the election manifestoes are issued by political parties, candidates in respect of a particular election," the EC response said.
RTI activist Gokhale on Friday tweeted, "ECI shockingly ignored the fact that the Union government announced it for a specific state and said action is taken when election atmosphere is vitiated."
The BJP, however, said health is a state subject and its manifesto is for Bihar, not for the entire country, where it has promised that the state will buy the vaccine for its people.
Rajasthan govt tables bill to make wearing face mask mandatory
In a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Rajasthan government on Saturday introduced an amendment bill in the state Assembly to make wearing a face mask or cover mandatory.
The Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was introduced by state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal.
A new clause in the Section 4 of the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Act, 2020 has been inserted, which proposes to prohibit the movement of people at public places without properly covering mouth and nose with a face mask or cover.
Union Home Secretary to review COVID-19 situation in Delhi
The Union Home Secretary's meeting with Delhi officials will be held days after National Capital recorded the highest single-day rise of 5,891 COVID-19 cases on Friday. The tally of cases in Delhi is now over 3.81 lakh.
This was the third consecutive day when over 5,000 cases were reported in a day in Delhi. On Thursday, the city recorded 5,739 cases of coronavirus infection. The National Capital also recorded 47 new fatalities on Friday, pushing the toll to 6,470.
In June, when COVID-19 cases were on the rise in Delhi, the Home Ministry had directed the state government to increase tracking and testing efforts. A committee, set up by Home Minister Amit Shah, also fixed the rates for testing, private hospital beds, ICUs and isolation beds.
The sudden spike in COVID-19 cases comes amid festivities and rising air pollution. While Durga Puja celebrations ended on 25 October, the next major festivals are Diwali and Chhath in November.
The National Centre for Disease Control in a report drafted recently had warned that Delhi needs to be prepared for about 15,000 fresh cases of COVID-19 per day taking into account the upcoming winter season-related respiratory problems, a large influx of patients from outside and festive gatherings.
UK government mulling another lockdown
The British government is considering imposing a new national lockdown in England, after its scientific advisors warned that hospitalisations and deaths from the resurgence of the coronavirus could soon surpass the levels seen at the outbreak's spring peak.
Epidemiologist John Edmunds, a member of the government's scientific advisory group, said cases were running significantly above a reasonable worst-case scenario drawn up by modelers early this month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has introduced a system of local restrictions for England based on levels of infection. But scientists say it has not been enough.
The Times of London was quoted by AP as saying that Johnson could announce a month-long lockdown as soon as Monday, though the government says no decisions have been made.
Any new lockdown would likely see non-essential businesses close and people told to stay mostly at home, though schools would remain open.
The UK is recording more than 20,000 new coronavirus infections a day, and government statisticians say the true figure is far higher. On Saturday the country is likely to surpass 1 million confirmed cases since the outbreak began. The UK has Europe's highest coronavirus death toll at more than 46,000.
India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20 lakh mark on 7 August, 30 lakh on 23 August and 40 lakh on 5 September. It went past 50 lakh on 16 September, 60 lakh on 28 September, 70 lakh on 11 October and crossed 80 lakh on 29 October.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, a total of 10,87,96,064 samples had been tested for COVID-19 till 30 October. Of these, 10,67,976 samples were tested on Friday.
The 551 new fatalities include 127 from Maharashtra, 59 from West Bengal, 49 each from Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, 47 from Delhi and 38 from Tamil Nadu.
Of the total 1,21,641 deaths reported so far in the country, 43,837 are from Maharashtra, followed by 11,140 from Karnataka, 11,091 from Tamil Nadu, 7,007 from Uttar Pradesh, 6,784 from West Bengal, 6,676 from Andhra Pradesh, 6,470 from Delhi, 4,187 from Punjab and 3,711 from Gujarat.
With inputs from agencies