The coronavirus cases in India raced past 54 lakh on Sunday with 92,605 more testing positive as schools in some states prepared to partially reopen for students from classes 9 to 12 who wish to seek guidance from their teachers.
Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh's Raipur is set to go under a weeklong stricter lockdown from Monday to control the spread of the infection, as per PTI.
Single-day recoveries exceed new cases
India's single-day recoveries exceeded the number of new infections with 94,612 people recuperating from COVID-19 in 24, taking the rceovery rate to 79.68 percent. The total COVID-19 recoveries have reached 43,03,043.
As many as 60 percent of the new recoveries were reported from five states " Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Maharashtra continued to top the chart with more than 23,000 new recoveries, while both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh accounted for over 10,000 single-day recoveries, it said.
The COVID-19 caseload in the country surged to 54,00,619 while the toll climbed to 86,752 with the virus claiming 1,133 lives in a span of 24 hours, according to the health ministry's 8 am update. The case fatality rate stood at 1.61 percent.
India's COVID-19 count had crossed 20-lakh on 7 August, 30 lakh on 23 August, 40 lakh on 5 September and it went past 50 lakh on 16 September.
"Also, 52 percent of the new cases are concentrated in five states. These are also the states contributing maximum to the new recoveries," the ministry underlined.
Maharashtra accounted for over 20,000 (22.16 percent) of the new cases. Both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka accounted for more than 8,000 cases, it said.
As many as 425 or 37 percent of the fatalities reported on Saturday were from Maharashtra, followed by Karnataka (114) and Uttar Pradesh (84), it said.
There are 10,10,824 active cases in the country which comprise 18.72 percent of the total caseload, showed the health ministry data.
According to the ICMR, a cumulative total of 6,36,61,060 samples have been tested up to 19 September with 12,06,806 samples being tested on Saturday.
'No significant mutation of virus'
Meanwhile, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan asserted that no significant or drastic mutation in strains of SARS-CoV-2 has been found in India till now.
During a virtual interaction with his social media followers, Vardhan said that the ICMR has been conducting large-scale sequencing of nationally representative strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus collected for several months over different time-points. Detailed results on mutations and evolution of the virus will be available in early October, he said.
Replying to queries during the 'Sunday Samvad' interaction, Vardhan asserted that enough oxygen is being produced in the country and the health ministry is closely monitoring the situation.
Vardhan informed that the ICMR had validated a few saliva-based tests for the detection of COVID-19, but no reliable test has been found. Companies with tests approved by US-FDA have still not approached the Government of India, he added.
He further said that the country's apex health research body is actively exploring this test method and information will be released as soon as reliable options are available.
The health minister noted that it would take a substantive amount of time for developing herd immunity to be able to cover about 70 percent of the population. Hence, the focus of the government is primarily towards putting together a strategy that combines containment and hospital management, he said.
Schools to partially re-open in several states
Schools in several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Nagaland and Madhya Pradesh will re-open for Class 9 to 12 students on Monday, in keeping with the Centre's Unlock-4 guidelines, according to a Scroll report.
All government-run and private schools across Jammu region will reopen partially for higher classes after six months of closure due to the pandemic, a senior government official said, assuring that all necessary arrangements are in place for the safety of students.
However, she said the attendance of the students would be voluntary and based on the consent of their parents.
We are partially reopening the schools outside containment zones for the students of 9 to 12 classes from tomorrow with terms and conditions in accordance with the guidelines of the government, Director School Education, Jammu zone, Anuradha Gupta told PTI.
She said only 50 percent teachers would attend their duties as per the prepared roster, while the students of Classes 9 to 12 can attend their classes only with the written consent from their parents or guardian.
Gupta said the department has worked out arrangements with the school management and they undertaken fumigation and sanitisation of the school premises. Besides ensuring social distancing, the schools will also ensure availability of adequate number of hand sanitisers, face masks and will follow the guidelines issued by the health department besides ensuring social distancing.
The school management would also ensure medical help if needed, she said.
The Punjab government also announced on Sunday that it would allow students of classes 9 to 12 to visit their schools in areas outside containment zones on a voluntary basis.
However, some states, including Delhi and Karnataka, have announced that they will not allow students to visit schools from Monday, according to the Hindustan Times.
Raipur to go under lockdown
Late on Saturday night, Raipur Collector S Bharathi Dasan issued an order declaring Raipur district as a containment zone and restricted several activities from 9 pm on 21 September till midnight of 28 September, a state public relations department official said.
"Raipur district has so far reported over 26,000 COVID-19 cases and 900-1000 cases are being recorded daily. To break the chain of transmission, it has become necessary to declare the entire district a containment zone. Inter-district borders in Raipur will remain sealed during this duration," the order said.
All Central, state, semi-government and private offices will remain closed. No public meeting or rally will be allowed, but government staff engaged in prevention and control of COVID-19 will continue to work as earlier, it said.
"All shops and commercial establishments, including grocery shops will be closed during the period. Medical shops will be allowed to remain open while home deliveries of medicines will be given priority. Milk shops will be open from 6am to 8am and then 5pm to 6:30 pm," an official said.
Petrol pumps will provide fuel only to government vehicles, private vehicles engaged in medical emergencies, and to ambulances.
LPG cylinder distributors are allowed to take orders only via telephone and provide home delivery, while liquor shops will remain closed. The order said industrial houses and construction units will have to make on-site residential arrangements for their labourers.
Essential services, like health, electricity and water supply, sanitation works and emergency services have been kept out of the purview of restrictions, and those needing to move out of the district will need an e-pass, an official said.
Lockdown has also been imposed for differing durations in several other urban areas of the states.
Central team visits Jammu
A central team visiting Jammu called for 100 percent house-to-house survey, contact tracing and increasing the number of testing, especially using Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits, to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
The four-member team headed by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) director SK Singh was discussing with senior government officers the steps to be taken for containing and controlling of the spread of COVID-19 following a spike in cases last month, said a spokesperson.
Reviewing the measures through video conference meetings with district administration and health teams of six districts Samba, Ramban, Kishtwar, Kathua, Rajouri and Doda, the team highlighted the need for focus on the testing and surveillance of containment zones using door-to-door surveys.
"The team members urged the officials concerned to focus on influenza-like Illness (ILI) /Severe Acute Respiratory infection (SARI) cases, 100 percent house-to-house survey, contact tracing and increasing the number of testing, especially with RAT. They asked the officials to focus on the data analysis and stepping up the testing, contact tracing and surveillance of the areas from where more cases are detected so that chain can be broken," the spokesman said.
He said the team suggested the measures to be implemented in the containment zones and asked them to involve ASHA and field Health staff to identify ILI cases so that testing of all can be done.
"Door-to-door survey was suggested for identifying high-risk persons like pregnant women or the elderly and those with comorbidity," he said.
With inputs from PTI