Nationwide tally nears 25,000 (Photo Credit: File Photo)
The nationwide tally of coronavirus positive patients neared 25,000 on Saturday with fresh cases getting detected in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh among other places, but the government said the daily growth rate has dipped to 6 per cent and some states began relaxing some lockdown conditions by allowing more shops to open.
At least 56 more deaths have been reported since Friday evening the highest so far in a span of 24 hours to take the death toll across the country to at least 779, according to the Union Health Ministry figures.
While an estimated 5.8 lakh tests have been conducted so far, the government has put on hold the use of rapid test kits procured from two Chinese firms to check their efficacy after some states including Rajasthan reported they were giving inaccurate results.
On a positive note, the Delhi government said it has seen encouraging results from the plasma therapy trial on more patients. Karnataka also began similar trials on Saturday, while Rajasthan said it was also ready to conduct these trials.
Some states, taking cue from a late Friday night order from the Union Home Ministry, said they are taking steps to open more categories of shops, including those selling garments, mobile phones, hardware and stationery items.
However, these relaxations would not be allowed for shops located in market places, malls and COVID-19 hotspots and containment zones. In rural areas, all shops barring those in malls have been allowed to open.
Liquor and cigarette shops would remain closed everywhere irrespective of their location, while sale of non-essential items through e-commerce platforms continue to remain shut. Restaurants, hair salons and barber shops will not be allowed to open as these render services and do not fall under the shop category.
The Delhi government said it will implement the Home Ministry order on opening of shops in the national capital, but Maharashtra ruled out any immediate relaxation saying the lockdown guidelines will remain unchanged in the state till May 3. Gujarat, on the other hand, decided to follow the directive, while Assam said it will take a decision on Monday.
A nationwide lockdown has been in place since March 25, which was first scheduled to end on April 14, but was extended till May 3 to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its 5 PM update, the Union Health Ministry said 24,942 people have so far tested positive while more than 5,200 have recovered giving a recovery rate of over 20 per cent. It also said the rate of daily growth in new cases has fallen to 6 per cent, which is the lowest since the country crossed 100 cases. In Andhra Pradesh, the tally crossed 1,000 and new positive cases included frontline healthcare professionals.
Maharasthra tops the tally with more than 6,800 cases, followed by over 2,800 in Gujarat and more than 2,500 in Delhi. Rajasthan has reported more than 2,000 cases, while Madhya Pradesh is also nearing this mark.
Of the total 779 COVID-19 deaths also, Maharashtra accounts for the highest number of 301 fatalities, followed by Gujarat (127), Madhya Pradesh (92), Delhi (53), Andhra Pradesh (31) and Rajasthan (27).
Uttar Pradesh, where at least 157 new cases emerged during the day to take the state's tally of COVID-19 patients to 1,778, began bringing back labourers from the state who have been stranded elsewhere. On the other hand, the state also announced a decision to ban all public gatherings till June 30.
West Bengal also reported 38 fresh COVID-19 cases, taking its total to 541. At least 18 people have died in the state, a health department bulletin said.
The team visiting West Bengal alleged that non-cooperation on the part of the state government over providing logistical support and other relevant information, while the state's ruling party Trinamool Congress described it as "India's Most Callous Team" and accused it of trying to spread the political virus "shamelessly".
On the political front, Congress President Sonia Gandhi also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking urgent steps to help the MSME sector, including a Rs 1 lakh crore 'Wage Protection' package. She said the MSME crisis has the potential of having a devastating and expansive ripple effect on our economy.