With 2,940 cases recorded by Maharashtra alone, Friday marked yet another new high in daily COVID-19 cases.
Data from State health departments show that with the addition of 6,510 cases, there have been a total 1,24,525 confirmed cases with 69,140 active infections and 51,666 recoveries country-wide. Fatalities increased by 148, to take the total death toll to 3,720.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, taking charge as the chairman of the World Health Organisation (WHO) executive board on Friday, said in a release: “Today we have a mortality of 3% only. In a country of 1.35 billion, there are only 0.1 million COVID-19 cases. The recovery rate is above 40% and doubling rate is 13 days. I am aware that I am entering this office at a time of global crisis on account of this pandemic. We all understand that there will be many health challenges in the future and all these challenges demand a shared response.”
V.K. Paul, chairman of Empowered Group-1, set up to tackle the COVID-19 threat, said at a press conference: “Because of the lockdown, India has been able to limit the virus in a manner where 80% of active cases are in just five States (Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh). More than 60% cases are in five cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and the spread of COVID-19 infection has remained limited to certain areas. This also gives confidence to open up other areas. It is so far an urban disease.”
“But lockdown cannot go on forever, it is meant for a purpose which we have achieved to a very large extent. Now we have to make things difficult for the virus,” Dr. Paul said, adding that India used its lockdown period to build its medical staff strength and infrastructure. “In less than two months, we have 1,093 facilities with 1,85,306 beds; 2,402 COVID care facilities with 1,38,652 beds with oxygen facility. It has been used only in some places but preparation is national.”
“Also if we look at the number of cases, cases growth rate, deaths due to COVID — all have fallen significantly due to lockdown, marking a notable difference between pre and post-lockdown situations,” Dr. Paul said.
Cautioning that COVID-19 spread and control is not a matter of weeks or months and that the country could be in for a long haul, Dr. Paul added: “We have to stay very cautious with the lockdown measures being done away with in several places across India. It is up to the people to create resistance against the spread of the virus. Since we don’t have a vaccine or medicines, awareness and caution are our best bet right now. Social distancing is vital as India still doesn’t have herd immunity, nor do we know a lot about the virus. We have to work at building immunity and adopt early care seeking behaviour.”
Giving details of how the lockdown has helped slow down the rise of COVID-19 cases in India, Pravin Srivastava, Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, said: “The growth rate of COVID has witnessed a steady fall from April 3, 2020 when lockdown was able to put a brake on the speed of growth. The number of cases today would have been much higher, had lockdown not been implemented.”
The MOSPI released estimates saying the lockdown had resulted in preventing approximately 14 lakh-29 lakh COVID-19 cases and averted 37,000 to 78,000 deaths.