New Delhi: India has crossed the grim milestone of one crore COVID-19 cases even as the spread of the virus slows down with almost a month being taken for the 10 lakh new infections unlike in the period from August till mid-November when they rose at a faster rate.
According to the Union Health Ministry's data updated at 8 am on Saturday, the total number of coronavirus cases stood at 1,00,04,599, while the recoveries surged to over 95.50 lakh.
India is in the number one position in terms of the number of recovered coronavirus cases, followed by Brazil, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which has been compiling global COVID-19 data.
India is the second worst-hit nation in terms of COVID-19 cases after the US, while it is in the third spot in terms of fatalities globally after the US and Brazil, according to the JHU data.
The health ministry data showed there were 25,152 new infections in a span of 24 hours while the death toll stood at 1,45,136 with the virus claiming 347 more lives. The COVID-19 fatality rate has further declined to 1.45 per cent, it said.
There are 3,08,751 active cases in the country which constitute 3.08 per cent of the total caseload, according to the data.
"The declining active cases have ensured that the active cases per million population in India are amongst the lowest in the world," the Health Ministry said in a statement.
India reported its first COVID-19 case on January 30 in Kerala, while the first death was reported on March 10 in Karnataka.
The country's COVID-19 case tally had surpassed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, and 40 lakh on September 5.
It went past 50 lakh on September 16, 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, 80 lakh on October 29, and surpassed 90 lakh on November 20.
Asked if the worst was over for India, Dr Samiran Panda, the Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases department at the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR), said the epidemiological curve has come down for some states, while there is a fluctuation for others.
"More states, we have seen effective control while in some of the states we need to be mindful and watchful. The state scenarios are different from each other," Panda told PTI.
When asked if a second peak of COVID-19 can be worse, noted clinical scientist Gagandeep Kang opined that the transmission will not be as rapid as was seen the first time and peak will not be as high.
"I don't think the exposure is enough to say that we have herd immunity and won't need to worry about it again, but I think it is enough to ensure that we will have some level of protection so that the transmission will not be as rapid as was seen the first time and peak will not be as high as we saw the first time.
"The problem has not gone away it will not go away with herd immunity, but I don't think necessarily we will see second higher peak as has been seen in the West," she said.
The worst affected states and union territories with highest number of COVID-19 cases are Maharashtra (18,88,767), Karnataka (9,07,123), Andhra Pradesh (8,77,806), Tamil Nadu (8,04,650), Kerala (6 93,865), Delhi (6,14,775) and Uttar Pradesh (5,72,196), according to official data.
A total of 1,45,136 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 48,574 from Maharashtra, followed by 11,989 from Karnataka, 11,954 from Tamil Nadu, 10,219 from Delhi, 9,277 from West Bengal, 8,154 from Uttar Pradesh, 7,070 from Andhra Pradesh, 5,170 from Punjab and 4,220 from Gujarat, the data showed.
Just 10 states/UTs have contributed 73.58 per cent of the new cases, according to the data.
Kerala reported 5,456 cases in the last 24 hours. West Bengal 2,239, while Maharashtra recorded 1,960 cases, the ministry said.
According to Kerala Health minister K K Shailaja, the state"s COVID-19 tally crossed the seven lakh mark on Saturday, with the addition of 6,293 cases.
The Union Health Ministry said that as much as 78.96 per cent of the 347 case fatalities that have been reported in the past 24 hours are from ten States/UTs.
"Maharashtra has reported the maximum new daily deaths with 75 deaths. West Bengal also saw a fatality count of 42, it said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the "third wave" of the COVID-19 pandemic in the capital is under control now, as the city reported 1,133 fresh cases at a positivity rate of less than 1.5 per cent.
"There was a time in November when the daily cases went up to nearly 8,600. But, even then it wasn't a panicky situation in Delhi, and 7,000 beds were available. We fought it all together. The fresh cases count today is 1,133, the official report will soon be out," he told an online briefing.
In a tweet later, the chief minister said, "With the efforts of the people of Delhi, we have effectively and successfully surpassed the third wave of Corona."
The highest single-day spike in Delhi till date - 8,593 cases - was reported on November 11.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, meanwhile, stressed the need for an expeditious COVID-19 vaccination drive to cover the entire target population estimated to be around 30 crore.
Vardhan was speaking while chairing the 22nd meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 through video-conferencing.
"India's COVID 19 pandemic growth has dropped to 2 per cent and case fatality rate is among the lowest in the world at 1.45 per cent," Vardhan said.
"India's Recovery Rate has peaked to 95.46 per cent while the strategy of testing one million samples has decreased the Cumulative Positivity Rate to 6.25 per cent," he added.
Observing that despite festivals in October and November, no new surge in cases was observed due to comprehensive testing, tracking and treatment policy implemented on the ground, Vardhan appealed to people to diligently maintain COVID-appropriate behaviour even at a time when the country is at the cusp of authorizing the first set of vaccines, a Union Health Ministry statement said.
He also expressed the need for an expeditious vaccination drive to cover all the target populations estimated to be around 30 crore, it added.
According to the ICMR, a cumulative 16,00,90,514 samples for coronavirus testing have been tested up to December 19 and this included 11,71,868 on Friday.
"Comprehensive and widespread testing on a sustained basis has resulted in bringing down the positivity rate. The Cumulative Positivity Rate stands at 6.25 per cent as of today," the Health ministry said.