New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) Amid a continuing rise in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, the Union Health Ministry on Friday said people should 'learn to live with the virus' while the nationwide tally of confirmed infections crossed 57,000 and the death toll neared 1,900.
The ministry also reeled off various datasets, including those showing a rising number of infection-free districts and an increasing recovery rate, to suggest success of the government's strategy in the COVID-19 fight, even as it sought 'a behavioural change' and everyone's support in this massive challenge.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, however, admitted there has been no success yet in breaking the virus chain and said his government may seek deployment of central forces, if needed, to allow police personnel to take rest in phases. The state tops the nationwide tally for confirmed cases as well as deaths.
A large number of new cases were reported during the day from various cities in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, while Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha also reported rise in their tallies. However, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh reported only one fresh positive case each.
The economic cost of the COVID-19 fight and the ongoing nationwide lockdown also appeared rising manifold with Moody's Investors Service projecting India's economic growth at zero per cent for the current fiscal. It also said that a high government debt, weak social and physical infrastructure, and a fragile financial sector face further pressures due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to experts, industrial and other business establishments may also face a huge labour shortage once they resume operations after the lockdown, which has been in place since March 25 and is scheduled to continue till May 17. Lakhs of migrant workers have either left for their native places or are in the process of doing so, including by trains and buses arranged by central and state governments.
There are also worries that the virus spread may grow further in newer areas following these movements, while a large number of Indians stranded abroad have also begun returning home in special flights.
During a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said, 'As we talk of relaxations to the lockdown and of migrant workers returning back to their respective homes, there is a big challenge in front of us that we also have to learn to live with the virus.' 'And when we are talking about learning to live with the virus then it is very important that the guidelines that are there on saving oneself from the virus are adopted in the community as a behavioural change,' he said.
It is a big challenge and the government needs the community support for it, Agarwal added.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also recently said the people will have to be ready to live with the novel coronavirus and that time has come to re-open the city.
Agarwal said there has been a reduction in the doubling time of COVID-19 cases in the country from 12 days till two days ago to 10 now because of the spike in cases at some places, but asserted that the peak of the disease can be avoided if the prescribed do's and don'ts are followed.
According to the daily morning update from the ministry, a total of 3,390 COVID-19 cases and 103 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours till Friday 8 AM, taking the total number of cases to 56,342 and death toll to 1,886.
However, a PTI tally of numbers reported by different states and union territories till 6.30 PM showed that nearly 57,500 have tested positive so far across the country. This marks an increase of nearly 5,000 since Thursday morning.
Close to 17,000 COVID-19 patients have also recovered so far, giving a recovery rate of more than 29 per cent. The worldwide recovery rate has been hovering around 33 per cent for the past few days.
Since its outbreak in China last December, more than 38.6 lakh people have been found to be infected with this virus, while over 2.7 lakh have lost their lives. Nearly 13 lakh people have recovered so far, including about 2 lakh in the US.
In India, big urban centres across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have been reporting large numbers of positive cases.
While rising numbers were reported from Mumbai, Nashik, Thane and Aurangabad, among other places, in Maharashtra on Friday as well, Tamil Nadu saw its tally rising by 600 to cross the 6,000-mark while its death toll also rose to 40.
On the outskirts of the national capital, Noida reported its first death while its tally of confirmed cases rose to 214.
Gujarat reported 390 new cases, taking its tally to 7,403, while the death toll also rose to 449 with 24 more patients dying in the last 24 hours.
Giving the district-wise situation of coronavirus cases, Agarwal said there are 216 districts in which no COVID-19 case has been reported till date.
On May 1, the ministry had divided 733 districts in the country into three zones -- 130 in red, 284 in orange and 319 in green.
Agarwal said 42 districts have had no fresh cases in the last 28 days while 29 districts have reported no new case in the last 21 days. Also, 36 districts have not registered any fresh cases in the last 14 days and 46 districts have had no fresh cases in the last seven days, he said.
In Kerala, which reported one solitary case during the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state has flattened the COVID-19 curve.
He also said the state needed to be careful to avoid another wave of the deadly virus but asserted it was ready to fight it in such an event.
Among other people, several paramilitary personnel have also contracted the virus and one CISF official posted in Kolkata succumbed to COVID-19 on Friday. The number of active cases of the infection in the five paramilitary is more than 530, while thousands have been placed under preventive or clinical quarantine, officials said.
A total of five paramilitary personnel have died so far of COVID-19, two each from BSF and CISF and one from the CRPF.
Maharashtra's Health Minister Rajesh Tope said Mumbai should see a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases in the next 15-20 days.
Separately, a panel of experts, formed to suggest ways to revive Maharashtra's economy, hit by the COVID-19 crisis and the resultant lockdown, submitted its report to the government during the day.
Several states have been taking steps to shore up their resources, including by levying higher taxes on fuel and liquor.
After Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and several others, Himachal Pradesh government has now decided to impose a 'corona cess' on liquor sales, while Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy also said the territorial administration was mulling imposition of special COVID-19 tax on liquor to wriggle out of the current fiscal crisis.
The Madras High Court, however, ordered closure of liquor shops in Tamil Nadu a day after they were reopened, but allowed sale of liquor through online and door delivery till the end of the lockdown.
The Supreme Court also asked states to consider non-direct contact or online sales and home delivery of liquor during the lockdown period to prevent the spread of coronavirus on account of crowding at the shops.
Liquor shops were allowed to be opened in the third phase of the lockdown, which began on May 4, subject to compliance to social distancing and other guidelines issued by the government. PTI PLB ASK ENM UD KIS JD AA NES MR DJI MNL ABA SJK PJT PD BJ BJ