New Delhi: India has recorded a steady rise in the COVID-19 active cases over the past few days with a surge in daily infections in five states, including Kerala, and Jammu and Kashmir, sparking fears of a second wave and prompting the Centre to direct them to refocus on strict surveillance, containment and RT-PCR-testing.
According to the health ministry on Sunday, the active cases were pegged at 1,45,634, with more than 74 per cent of them in Kerala and Maharashtra, which has announced a state-wide ban on social, political and religious gatherings, besides imposing fresh local lockdowns or curbs in districts like Pune and Amravati.
The states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab and the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir have also seen a surge in daily cases, according to the Union Health Ministry, which said 85.61 per cent of the new cases are from these five states and the UT and their weekly positivity rate is more than the national average of 1.79 per cent.
Maharashtra has the highest weekly positivity rate with 8.10 per cent.
Asking people to follow "COVID-appropriate" behaviour and safety norms, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said he would observe for a week to 15 days before deciding on imposing another lockdown.
"The pandemic is raising its head in the state again, but whether this is a second wave will be known in eight to 15 days," he said in a televised address.
The Union Health Ministry has also written to all states and UTs on the need to significantly enhance the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations, while experts have cautioned against letting the guard down or factoring in "herd immunity" which could be "very difficult" to achieve due to the "variant strains".
India has made considerable gains in controlling the pandemic with 22 states and UTs not reporting any COVID-19 death in a span of24 hours.
The national capital appeared to be heading towards reopening completely -- from schools to colleges, courts to public transport, and other places and services which were partially functioning so far in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delhi on Sunday recorded 145 fresh COVID-19 cases and two new fatalities due to the disease, as the positivity rate dipped to 0.23 per cent, authorities said.
However, daily national tally of COVID-19 cases increased for the fourth consecutive day with 14,264 new cases on Sunday, taking the total count to1,09,91,651, while the death toll increased to1,56,302with 90 more fatalities,the data updated at 8am showed.
"Of late, it is seen that there has been a spike in the daily cases in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also. Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir too are witnessing a surge in daily new cases," the ministry said.
The ministry said Maharashtra continues to report the highest daily new cases at 6,281. It is followed by Kerala with 4,650 while Karnataka reported 490 new cases.
The five states, along with J-K, which are now a cause of concern have been advised by the Centre to improve the overall testing numbers by focusing on increasing the proportion of RT-PCR tests.
It has asked them to refocus on strict and comprehensive surveillance as well as stringent containment in selected districts and conduct regular monitoring of the mutant strains through testing followed by genome sequencing, as well as monitoring of the emerging cluster of cases, the health ministry stated.
They have also been asked to pay attention to clinical management in districts reporting higher deaths.
In Maharashtra, in the last four weeks, the weekly tally shown a rising trend and increased from 18,200 to 21,300.
The Mumbai suburban areas have seen a weekly rise in cases by 19 per cent. In Nagpur, Amravati, Nashik, Akola and Yavatmal the weekly cases have increased by 33 per cent, 47 per cent, 23 per cent, 55 percent and 48 percent, respectively, the union health ministry noted.
AIIMS, Delhi director Randeep Guleria stressed on the importance of vaccination, which he said is essential in India's fight against the coronavirus.
"Herd immunity is something that is going to be very, very difficult to achieve and it is something one should not really think of in practical terms... because the variant strains and varying immunity with times can lead to a chance where people may have reinfection or get the infection again," he said.
Herd immunity implies that in any set of people in a community, after becoming affected by the virus, many of them become immune to it, on account of antibodies developed in response to it. And, hence, such people become a protective layer between the infected person and unaffected people, thereby breaking the chain of viral transmission.
India's cumulative vaccination coverage has crossed 1.10 crore.
However, the Union Health Ministry has written to all states and UTs on the need to significantly enhance the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations, noting that a large number of healthcare and frontline workers remain to be covered.
(With inputs from PTI)