With over 7,000 cases reported in 24 hours, Delhi overtook Maharashtra and Kerala as the largest contributor to the new coronavirus cases in the country, the Union health ministry said on Saturday.
A total of 50,356 new coronavirus infections and 53,920 recoveries were recorded in the country in the 24 hours between 8 am on Friday and Saturday, the health ministry said.
Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain said the National Capital was under the onslaught of a third wave of infections while Indian Medical Association attributed 13 percent of the increase in COVID-19 cases to air pollution and cautioned that N-95 masks and air purifiers may not be enough.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government announced that classes 9 to 12 of schools will reopen from 23 November.
77% new cases from 10 states, says Centre
India’s COVID-19 caseload mounted to 84,62,080, while the toll climbed to 1,25,562 with 577 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease has surged to 78,19,886, pushing the national recovery rate to 92.41 percent. The recoveries exceed active cases by 73,03,254, according to the ministry’s data.
Seventy-seven percent of the new coronavirus infections are from 10 states and Union Territories — Delhi, Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Delhi recorded 7,178 fresh infections on Friday, taking the tally to over 4.23 lakh. Kerala recorded 7,002 new cases followed by Maharashtra at 6,870 new cases, the ministry said.
Also, ten states and UTs — Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Odisha — account for nearly 83 percent of the 577 fatalities reported in 24 hours, the ministry said.
More than 27.9 percent of new fatalities reported are from Maharashtra (161 deaths). Delhi and West Bengal follow with 64 and 55 new deaths, respectively.
The ministry further stated that 79 percent of the new recovered cases are observed to be concentrated in 10 states and UTs. Maharashtra continues to have the maximum number of single-day recoveries. As many as 11,060 more recoveries have pushed the state’s tally to 15,62,342.
As many as 18 states and UTs are reporting a higher recovery rate than the national average.
The trend of India’s daily new COVID-19 recoveries exceeding the single-day cases for the last five weeks played a pivotal role in pushing down the active caseload which is presently pegged at 5.16 lakh cases and comprises 6.11 percent of total cases, the ministry said.
The last five weeks have seen a continuous decline in average daily new cases of COVID-19 . The average daily new cases have dropped to 46,000 cases from more than 73,000 average daily new cases in the first week of October. The active cases are on a sustained decline as a result of the aforementioned trend, the ministry said.
Third wave in Delhi
Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Saturday said that the National Capital was reeling under the third wave of infections but added that the cases should drop soon.
Asked about the spike in cases, Jain said, Delhi had seen the first wave around 23 June, the second wave around 17 September, and this is now the third wave of COVID-19 infection, and case should begin to come down as it has been a spell of rising cases in the last five to six days.
Asked about the factors behind the third wave of the coronavirus infection in Delhi, he said that among other factors, it could be because of easing of restrictions and the “festive season”, while reiterating the importance of wearing masks.
“Many people are going to the market to shop because it is a festival season. Markets are crowded in many places… there are many reasons,” Jain said.
The AAP leader also said that pollution is not the cause behind the spike. “But both are dangerous. The biggest reason for the increase in infections is our lax behavior. If we do not wear masks, don’t follow social distancing, then it is the main reason for the surge,” Jain added.
However, the Indian Medical Association said that Delhi has reported more than 6,000 COVID-19 cases daily in the past few days and 13 percent of this increase has been estimated to be due to air pollution.
“Increased air pollution leads to increased inflammatory response,” the doctors’ body said.
In the last 10 days, the National Capital and its neighbouring areas have seen a sharp spike in air pollution levels.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi on Saturday remained above 350 while the safe limit is 0-50. The WHO’s ambient air pollution data shows that the levels of PM 10 and PM 2.5 in Delhi are way above the normal levels, the IMA stated.
Poor air quality may result in the aggravation of asthma, COPD, high BP, and even cardiovascular diseases. Merely walking could result in health complications due to the high concentration of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in Delhi’s air.
“N-95 masks and air purifiers may not provide full-time protection. An AQI of above 300 makes it difficult not only for people with respiratory problems but for healthy people as well. Hence, it is advisable that people do not go out early in the morning when pollution levels are the highest. Elderly and children are more likely to develop infections and allergies due to smog,” it said and stressed on the implementation of long-term measures to bring down pollution levels.
School in Maharashtra to partially resume on 23 Nov
Maharashtra school education Varsha Gaikwad, during a video conference held by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, said that schools will reopen for Classes 9 to 12 from 23 November, with measures like thermal checking at entry points, only one student seated per bench, and classes conducted on alternate days.
The chief minister said that schools for classes 9 to 12 should reopen after Diwali with all COVID-19 safety protocols in place, A second wave of COVID-19 pandemic was possible looking at the situation elsewhere in the world, so the administration must be cautious, the chief minister warned.
“We need to be extra cautious after Diwali. Quarantine centres in schools cannot be shut. The local administration can take decisions regarding alternative places for classrooms. Sanitisation of schools, coronavirus tests for teachers, and other precautions are a must,” the chief minister said.
Students who are sick or those who have a sick family member at home must not be sent to schools, Thackeray added.
Gaikwad said all teachers will undergo RT-PCR coronavirus tests between 17 and 22 November. Classes will be held on alternate days and science, maths and English will be taught in schools while other subjects will be taught online, Gaikwad said.
Kerala governor tests positive
In other news, Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan tested positive for COVID-19 .
“I have tested positive for COVID-19 . But there is no cause for concern. However, I request all those who had contact with me in New Delhi last week to test for Covid or be under observation to be on the safe side”Khan tweeted.
The governor, who was in New Delhi, had returned to Kerala on Friday morning and had got himself tested on Saturday, Raj Bhavan sources said.
With inputs from PTI