With 54,044 new cases, India's coronavirus tally on Wednesday rose to 76,51,107, while the toll climbed to 1,15,914 with 717 succumbing to the virus in 24 hours, said the Union health ministry.
As many as 67,95,103 people have recuperated from the disease so far, pushing the national recovery rate to 88.81 percent while the case fatality rate has dropped to 1.51 percent, the health ministry's data updated at 8 am showed. The country now has 7,40,090 active cases of the coronavirus infection, comprising 9.67 percent of the total caseload.
The active case have remained below 7.5 lakh for the second consecutive day while less than 6,000 new infections have been reported for the third straight day.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government decided to cap the prices of N-95, double and triple layer masks for suppliers and private hospitals, informed health minister Rajesh Tope.
According to the minister, the price of N-95 masks in the state has been fixed in the range of Rs 19 to Rs 49, while double and triple layer masks will be available at Rs 3 to Rs 4 per unit, he said.
"Suppliers can quote 70 percent of MRP of the mask while hospitals can charge patients up to 110 percent of the purchase price. No hospital will be allowed to charge more than 110 percent of the procurement price," Tope said, adding that, in case of complaints, people could reach out to the Food and Drugs Administration commissioner and district-level officials.
Maharashtra on Wednesday recorded 8,142 new cases taking the total cases so far to 16,17,658. The state also reported 180 deaths, which took the fatality count to 42,633.
78% new cases from 10 states: Centre
The ministry said that 78 percent of the 54,044 new cases of COVID-19 registered in a span of 24 hours are concentrated in ten states and Union Territories. Maharashtra contributed more than 8,000 fresh cases while Karnataka and Kerala, both reported over 6,000.
It further said that 10 states and UTs accounted for 77 percent of the new recovered cases, adding that Karnataka outnumbered Maharashtra with more than 8,500 new recoveries in 24 hours. Maharashtra and Kerala both registered more than 7,000 new recoveries.
Of the COVID-19 deaths, registered in a span of 24 hours, 82 percent are from 10 states and UTs, the ministry said, adding that Maharashtra, with 213 deaths, accounted for 29 percent of the fatalities, followed by Karnataka with 66 deaths.
According to the ministry, presently 14 states and UTs including Chhattisgarh (0.96 pc), Jharkhand (0.87 pc), Andhra Pradesh (0.82 pc), Telangana (0.57 pc),Bihar (0.49 pc),Assam (0.44 pc), Odisha (0.43 pc) and Kerala (0.34 pc) are reporting a case fatality rate of less than one percent.
The Centre has advised states and UTs to aim at bringing down the CFR below one percent.
Calcutta HC modifies order
Meanwhile, Calcutta High Court partly modified its order on community Durga Pujas, allowing drummers to perform within the no-entry zones of the marquees following all health protocols.
It retained its earlier order declaring all Durga Puja marquees no-entry zones and mandating erection of barricades in front of the pandals to prevent visitors from entering. However, it raised the number of people who can be present there for big pujas from 25 to 60 but left it at 15 for the small ones.
The list of 60 people who can stay inside the pandals for big pujas will have to be put up daily, the court said.
The court had on Monday declared all pandals across West Bengal as no-entry zones and had ordered that no visitors be allowed inside the marquees in order to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases in the state.
West Bengal's case count increased to 3,33,126 on Wednesday as the state saw its highest single-day spike of 4,069 new cases and the toll rose to 6,244 with 64 fresh fatalities.
EC takes note of COVID-19 guideline violations
The Election Commission took a serious view of "utter violation" of social distancing norms during poll campaigning and of leaders addressing public meetings without wearing masks in complete disregard of its guidelines issued in August.
"It has come to the notice of the commission instances of such public meetings where large crowds assembled in utter violation of social distancing, and the political leaders and campaigners addressing the gatherings without wearing masks in complete disregard of the guidelines and instructions issued by the Election Commission," the poll panel said.
By not following the norms, the EC said, the political parties and candidates are not only flouting its guidelines "with impunity but exposing themselves as well as the public attending the rallies or meetings to the danger of infection during the pandemic".
As the most important stakeholders in the electoral process, the parties are duty-bound to observe the norms determined by the Commission for electioneering, it noted.
The poll panel warned that non-compliance of instructions during the period of public interaction will attract actions under provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides invocation of the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and other legal provisions.
"The commission has taken a serious view of the laxity on the part of political parties and candidates, on the ground, in terms of maintaining crowd discipline, and hereby reiterates and further advises them to demonstrate utmost vigil and care during electioneering," it said in an advisory issued to presidents and general secretaries of all recognised national and state parties.
Campaigning is on for Bihar Assembly polls as well as for bye-elections in other states. Assembly polls in Bihar will be held in three phases on 28 October, 3 and 7 November. Most of the assembly bypolls will be held on 3 November, while some will be held on 7 Novemeber.
IIT-Kharagpur develops low-cost testing device
A low-cost portable COVID-19 testing device developed by IIT Kharagpur has received certification from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
According to IIT-Kharagpur officials, 'COVIRAP' is a cuboid-shaped portable testing device that can deliver results in an hour, making it an effective tool to scale up coronavirus screening in peripheral and rural areas.
Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' said the innovation has made high-quality, accurate testing affordable for common people. The testing cost with COVIRAP is around Rs 500 which can further be reduced through government intervention, he said.
"This machine can be developed at a cost of less than Rs 10,000 with minimal infrastructural requirement making the technology affordable to common people. The testing process in this new machine is completed within one hour," the minister said.
He said the device would go on impacting the lives of many in rural India as the device is portable and can be operated on a very low energy supply. Minimally trained rural youth can operate this device.
VK Tewari, director, IIT-Kharagpur said that the innovation is set to replace PCR-based tests to a large extent. "While the Institute can produce the testing kit up to a certain scale, patent licensing will facilitate commercialisation opportunities for medical technology companies. Any corporate or start-up can approach the institute for technology licensing and commercial scale of production," he said.
Satyender Jain defends plasma therapy
A day after the ICMR said that it was mulling the deletion of convalescent plasma therapy from national COVID-19 treatment protocols, Delhi health minister Satyender Jain asserted that the therapy had benefitted over 2,000 COVID-19 patients as well as himself.
"We have been doing it (plasma therapy) trials after getting due permission. The ICMR-AIIMS study has not shown much breakthrough. But people are getting benefitted from it here, and over 2,000 have benefitted by receiving plasma from the dedicated bank only," Jain said.
"Even America has acknowledged its benefit. And, research is going on it world over. Delhi in a way is a pioneer in it and plasma therapy benefits have been seen. You should go and ask family members of those patients who were administered the plasma therapy," the minister, who had received plasma therapy while being treated for COVID-19, said.
Presently, the use of off-label convalescent plasma for treating COVID-19 patients in the moderate stage of the illness is allowed under "investigational therapies".
However, a randomised controlled trial, led by the ICMR, on 464 patients in 39 hospitals in 25 districts across 14 states and UTs found that plasma therapy does not reduce mortality or prevent the condition of COVID-19 patients from worsening.
On Wednesday, the National Capital recorded 47 COVID-19 fatalities, pushing the number of deaths to 6,128, while the infection count went past 3.4 lakh with 3,686 more testing positive.
With inputs from PTI