As the COVID-19 recovery rate in India rose to 89.78 percent on Saturday, the Union health ministry said that 61 percent of the total number of recovered patients is reported from six states and Union Territories.
Maharashtra, one of the worst-affected states in terms of the spread of COVID-19, topped the chart with over 20 percent of the national tally of recoveries. It is followed by Andhra Pradesh at 10.9 percent, Karnataka at 9.9 percent, Tamil Nadu at 9.4 percent, Uttar Pradesh at 6.1 percent, and Delhi at 4.1 percent.
However, as cases of COVID-19 also continued to rise in Maharashtra, former chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday said that he had tested positive for the infection.
"I have been working every single day since the lockdown but now it seems that God wants me to stop for a while and take a break! I have tested #COVID19 positive and in isolation. Taking all medication and treatment as per the advice of the doctors," Fadnavis said, advising people who had come in contact with him to get themselves tested.
Meanwhile, over seven months since the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown began, a study spanning the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Odisha found that around 31 percent adolescents battled "extreme anxiety" in the past few months, worrying about the impact of the pandemic on their family's financial status.
Providing information on the overall COVID-19 situation in the country, the health ministry on Saturday said that so far, around 70,16,046 people have recuperated from the disease. On the other hand, the tally of cases rose by 53,370 to 78.14 lakh while the toll rose to 1,17,956 with 650 new deaths in the last 24 hours.
Active cases stand at 6,80,680, which comprises 8.71 percent of the total caseload, the ministry said, adding that the COVID-19 case fatality rate has further declined to 1.51 percent.
According to ICMR, a cumulative total of 10,13,82,564 samples have been tested up to 23 October, with 12,69,479 samples tested on Friday.
Single-day recoveries exceed number of new cases, says Centre
In a statement on Saturday, the Union health ministry said a pattern has emerged of single-day recoveries exceeding the fresh cases in the recent days. In the last 24 hours, 67,549 COVID-19 patients have recovered and discharged.
"A total of 53,370 new confirmed cases were recorded in the last 24 hours. Eighty percent of the new cases are from 10 states and UTs. Kerala is reporting the maximum addition with more than 8,000 cases, followed by Maharashtra with more than 7,000 cases," it said.
Vendors arrange flowers at a wholesale flower market ahead of the Hindu festival of Dussehra, in Bengaluru. AP
Arvind Kejriwal pitches for free vaccine throughout India
Amid the political slugfest over the BJP's 'free vaccine' announcement as a poll plank in Bihar, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said the COVID-19 vaccine should be made available throughout the country for free, adding that all the people were troubled by the coronavirus.
Several leaders from across party lines have joined the debate on whether the COVID-19 vaccine, which is yet to materialise, should be made available to people for free.
Weighing in on the debate, Kejriwal said, "The whole country should get free COVID-19 vaccine. It is the right of the entire country. All the people are troubled by the coronavirus, so the vaccine should be free for the country."
However, the Centre on Friday said that once the coronavirus becomes available, it will be distributed under a special COVID-19 immunisation programme. The Centre will procure the doses directly and make it available for priority groups, PTI reported.
According to the report, the Centre will procure the vaccine directly to make it available to the priority groups for free through the existing network of states and districts.
Joe Biden promises 'free vaccine' if elected as US president
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has pledged that if elected as president in the 3 November election, he will ensure free COVID-19 vaccination for all Americans, laying out his pandemic response plan just days before the US presidential polls.
In a major policy speech on the coronavirus in his home state of Delaware, Biden on Friday flayed US president Donald Trump for his policies to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 2,24,000 people and has had a devastating impact on the country's economy.
"President Trump said we're rounding the corner, it's going away, we're learning to live with it. They are quotes. But as I told him last night, we're not learning to live with it. We're learning to die with it. This is a dark winter ahead," Biden, 77, said.
Already nearly 2,24,000 people in the US have lost their lives to this virus. Worse yet, a new study from Columbia University suggests that anywhere between 1,30,000 and 2,10,000 of those deaths were avoidable, he said.
"Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone, whether or not you're insured," the former vice president said.
He said that if elected, he would direct the federal government to "bulk-purchase as many doses as necessary of the COVID-19 vaccine so we can provide it free to those who are uninsured, under-insured or Medicaid-eligible."
Alleging that Trump does not have a plan to fight the coronavirus, Biden said the longer he is the president, the "more reckless" he gets.
Girls faced 'significant' discrimination during lockdown, says study
A study that surveyed over 7,300 adolescents in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Odisha found that 31 percent of the respondents "battled extreme anxiety" in the past few months due to COVID-19.
The survey on 'What do the Adolescents have to say? COVID-19 and its Impact' by NGO Centre for Catalysing Change was conducted in two rounds in the months of April, July and August.
Out of the 7,324 adolescents surveyed, 31 percent admitted to battling extreme anxiety worrying about the pandemic's impact on their family's financial status.
The survey also found that adolescent girls faced significant gender discrimination in these months due to the pandemic. "Only 12 percent of surveyed adolescent girls had access to their own mobile phones to be able to attend online classes, while 35 percent boys had access to their own mobile phones," the survey found.
"Further, 51 percent of the adolescent girls surveyed lacked access to essential textbooks in comparison to boys, highlighting how the pandemic had jeopardised girls' access to education," it said.
About 39 percent of the girls were found to be contributing to housework as opposed to the number of boys at 35 percent, it said.
Under the survey, the adolescent girls also stated how their mobility has been curbed, with only 39 percent girls saying they were allowed to go out alone in comparison to 62 percent boys of the same age who were allowed to go out alone.
"At the same time, only 36 percent adolescents knew the correct helpline numbers, while awareness about the use of the helplines was even lower. Only 18 percent were aware that the helplines could be used in reporting domestic violence and only 22-23 percent knew that it could be used in reporting child labour and child trafficking cases," it added.
The 650 latest fatalities include 184 from Maharashtra, 60 from West Bengal, 58 from Chhattisgarh, 51 from Karnataka, 40 from Uttar Pradesh, 33 from Tamil Nadu and 26 each from Delhi and Kerala.
The total 1,17,956 deaths reported so far in the country include 43,015 from Maharashtra followed by 10,858 from Tamil Nadu, 10,821 from Karnataka, 6,830 from Uttar Pradesh, 6,544 from Andhra Pradesh, 6,368 from West Bengal, 6,189 from Delhi, 4,095 from Punjab and 3,673 from Gujarat.
With inputs from agencies