COVID-19: With record 1.68 lakh daily spike, India overtakes Brazil to become the 2nd worst hit country

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New Delhi, Apr 12 (PTI) India on Monday surpassed Brazil to become the second worst hit country from COVID-19 with a record daily spike of 1,68,912 new infections as several states including West Bengal witnessed the biggest surge since the outbreak of the pandemic prompting authorities to impose new curbs.

In some good news for the Centre's vaccination strategy to combat the viral disease, sources said an expert panel of India's central drug authority has recommended granting approval to Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V for restricted emergency use with certain conditions, paving the way for a third vaccine in the country after Covishield and Covaxin. Russia hoped the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) will soon complete the approval process.

According to the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) data, India with a total of 1,35,27,717 coronavirus cases pushed Brazil to the the third spot. The Latin American country had a tally of 1,34,82,023 cass while the US has the highest number at 3,11,98,055. The global COVID tally has been put at 13,61,36,954.

The active cases in the country have surpassed the 12-lakh mark, while the death toll increased to 1,70,179 with 904 new fatalities in a day, the highest since October 18, 2020, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated at 8 AM on Monday. The national COVID-19 recovery rate has fallen below 90 percent, it said.

India was in the fourth spot in the COVID death tally behind the US, Brazil and Mexico.

'People not adhering to COVID-appropriate behaviour and the circulation of highly infectious strains of SARS-COV-2 could be the primary reasons behind the surge in coronavirus infections in India,' AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said.

He also warned that if the situation is not reversed, then the galloping infection rate will eventually cause a huge strain on the country's healthcare system.

He sought stricter enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour on the ground level by the administration and authorities.

'Around February, when cases started to decrease, people became lax towards following COVID-appropriate behaviour as they thought the virus had become ineffective.

'People are taking the disease lightly now. If you go out, you see that marketplaces, restaurants and shopping malls are crowded and full of people and these all are super-spreader events,' Guleria said.

Earlier, if one sick person was able to infect around 30 percent of their contacts, this time those getting the disease are infecting a larger number of people, he said.

'So, the rate of spread of the infection is fast possibly due to the highly infectious and transmissible strains circulating.' The Haryana government joined several states to impose night curfew in the state with immediate effect while Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa warned that the state government could impose lockdown if the necessity arose.

West Bengal, which is in the midst of a high octane Assembly poll campaign, registered 4,511 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day spike since the pandemic started last year, the state health department said. Kolkata also set a record of 1,115 new cases, it said.

Ten states -- Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan -- have shown a steep rise in the daily COVID-19 cases accounting for 83.02 per cent of the new infections, the Union Health Ministry said.

Delhi recorded 11,491 COVID-19 cases on Monday, the highest single-day surge in the national capital till date, while 72 more people died due to the disease, according to data shared by the health department.

The positivity rate rose to 12.44 percent from 9.43 percent a day ago.

The 72 deaths are the highest since December 5 when 77 deaths were recorded.

The worst affected state of Maharashtra reported 51,751 fresh coronavirus cases, a day after logging the highest 63,294 infections, while 258 people died, the state health department said.

Mumbai recorded 6,905 new cases, the lowest single-day count so far in April, while 43 more patients succumbed to the infection, the city civic body said.

For the first time since the start of the month, Mumbai has witnessed less than 8,500 daily COVID-19 cases in a day, it said. The lesser figure is being attributed to a relatively lesser testing on Sunday.

The Civil Aviation ministry ordered that Airlines will not be permitted to serve meals in domestic flights that have a duration of less than two hours.

The ban will come into effect from Thursday, the ministry said in its order.

The ministry said it decided to review the on-board meal services in domestic flights due to the 'increasing threat of COVID-19 and its variants'.

As the surge in coronavirus cases in the country continued unabated, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow emergency use of all the vaccine candidates having required clearances.

In a letter to the prime minister after her meeting with chief ministers of Congress-ruled states, she also sought expansion of categories of people eligible for vaccination on the basis of need and exposure rather than age.

Batting for the coronavirus vaccine for all in the country, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said Prime Minister Modi should stop indulging in 'event management' and instead ensure that those who need the jabs get it.

Gandhi, who has been critical of the Centre's handling of the coronavirus crisis, also demanded a ban on the export of COVID vaccines.

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Modi will interact with Governors of various states on April 14 on the COVID-19 situation, sources said.

It would be the first meeting of this kind during the pandemic and has been convened amid fresh moves by the Centre to push for stronger adherence to the pandemic protocols among citizens across the country.PTI PLB GVS MR KK JTR SKC KR MPB SUN VSD SCH DSP GMS GSN GSN GSN