COVID-19: India reports highest daily rise in cases in over six months; PM reviews situation; Maha, other states announce restrictions

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New Delhi, Apr 4 (PTI) The 'alarming' surge in coronavirus cases in India remained unabated as 93,249 new infections were recorded on Sunday, the highest single-day rise since September 19, with the Centre attributing it to a severe decline in the compliance of COVID-appropriate behaviour, pandemic fatigue and lack of effective implementation of containment measures.

Maharashtra, which is the worst affected, announced a weekend lockdown in the state from 8 PM on Friday and a shut down of private offices, except in the banking and insurance sectors, from Monday night with employees allowed to work from home, besides other restrictions.

At a review meeting with senior officials, Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed that central teams consisting of public health specialists be sent to Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh, where the situation was of serious concern.

They are among 10 high burden states and UTs are contributing 91.4 percent of the total cases and 90.9 percent of the total deaths in the country.

The Centre said that a special campaign for COVID-appropriate behaviour with emphasis on 100 percent mask usage, personal hygiene and sanitation at public places, workplaces and health facilities will be organised between April 6-14.

Modi said the five-fold strategy of testing, tracing, treatment, COVID-appropriate behaviour and vaccination if implemented with utmost seriousness and commitment would be effective in curbing the pandemic's spread, according to an official statement.

He called for avoiding mortality under all circumstances by ramping up healthcare infrastructure and other measures and exhorted that all states need to take required stringent measures with comprehensive restrictions in places witnessing high surge to curb the spread.

The reasons for the sharp rise in cases could be mainly attributed to the severe decline in compliance of COVID-appropriate behaviour, especially in the use of masks and social distancing, pandemic fatigue and lack of effective implementation of containment measures at the field level, said the statement released after the prime minister's review meeting with senior officials.

It was noted in the meeting that the exact contribution of mutant strains to the escalation of cases in some states remains speculative and the measures to control the pandemic remain the same, and hence the implementation of various protocols for COVID-19 management is all the more critical in those areas.

Sunday saw the biggest daily rise in cases since September 19, when 93,337 fresh infections were recorded.

The death toll climbed to 1,64,623 on Sunday with 513 new fatalities, the health ministry data updated at 8 AM showed.

Registering a steady increase for the 25th straight day, the number of active cases surged to 6,91,597, accounting for 5.54 percent of the total infections. The recovery rate further dropped to 93.14 per cent, the data stated.

The active caseload was at its lowest at 1,35,926 on February 12, comprising 1.25 percent of the total infections.

'A detailed presentation was made which highlighted that there is an alarming rate of growth of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country with 10 states contributing to more than 91 percent of cases and deaths due to COVID,' the statement on the review meeting said.

The presentation highlighted that Maharashtra has contributed 57 percent of the total cases and 47 percent of deaths in the country in the last 14 days.

The total number of new cases per day has touched 47,913 which is more than double its earlier peak.

Punjab has contributed 4.5 percent of the total cases in the country in the same period but has accounted for 16.3 percent of the total deaths, a matter of serious concern, the statement said.

Similarly, though Chhattisgarh has contributed 4.3 percent of the total cases nationwide in the last 14 days, its contribution in total deaths has exceeded seven percent during the same period.

The meeting was also informed that vaccine manufacturers are ramping up their production capacity and are also in discussion with other domestic and offshore companies to augment the same.

As India races to contain the fresh wave of COVID-19, five states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal have carried out over 43 percent of the total vaccinations in the country, according to the Health Ministry data.

Of the total 7,59,79,651 vaccinations carried out till now, 3,33,10,437 were carried out in these five states.

While 2,91,54,577 were first doses and 41,55,860 were second doses in these five states, according to the data till 7 am on Sunday.

In Maharashtra, 73,54,244 vaccinations have been carried out which alone accounts for 9.68 percent of the total vaccinations in the country.

A total of 69,23,008 vaccinations have been carried out in Gujarat which is 9.11 percent of the total vaccinations. In Uttar Pradesh, 66,43,096 vaccinations (8.74 percent).

There have been 64,31,601 vaccinations (8.46 percent) in Rajasthan; 59,58,488 vaccinations (7.84 per cent) in West Bengal.

Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are also among states that are reporting high numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

The 513 new fatalities include 277 from Maharashtra, 49 from Punjab, 36 from Chhattisgarh.

Many states have tightened or reintroduced restrictions after the fresh surge in cases.

Private offices, except in the banking and insurance sectors, will remain shut in Maharashtra from Monday night, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.

He said employees of private offices will be allowed to work from home.

Government offices will function at 50 percent of their capacity and the rest of the employees will work from home, except the staffers of the essential services related to the pandemic management, the minister said.

The state government also announced a weekend lockdown in the state from 8 pm on Friday to 7 am on Monday to curb the huge surge in COVID-19 cases.

Strict restrictions will come into force from Monday 8 pm onwards under which shopping malls, bars, restaurants, small shops will be open only for take-aways and parcels.

Tope said saloons and beauty parlours will also remain closed in the state. Public transport will remain functional with restrictions, and autorickshaws and cabs will operate with a limited number of passengers, he added.

The Maharashtra Police registered a case against 1,011 people for allegedly violating COVID-19 prevention rules by attending a religious gathering in Buldhana district on Friday, an official said.

The Haryana government issued fresh guidelines putting a ceiling on the number of people permitted to attend functions in open spaces and indoors, and at funerals.

Under the new standard operating procedure (SOPs), organisers of social, academic, sports, entertainment, cultural, religious and political gatherings must take permission from district magistrates, the state government stated.

Several restaurants, night clubs and hotels in the national capital have been fined and face cases for not maintaining social distancing and other safety guidelines, police officials said on Sunday following a two-day special drive to crackdown on violators.

Delhi recorded 4,033 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, highest in four months.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his government will restrict the movement of people from neighbouring Chhattisgarh to curb the spread of COVID-19 and a lockdown will be enforced in isolated areas whenever needed. He said they have already sealed Madhya Pradesh's areas bordering Maharashtra.

Assam issued fresh notifications for mandatory testing of air and train passengers coming to the state from Mumbai and Bengaluru to check the spread of virus.

India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19. PTI TEAM RT RT