New Delhi:

India's COVID-19 tally raced past 34 lakh with a single-day spike of 76,472 cases, while the number of recoveries surged to 26,48,998, pushing the recovery rate to 76.47 per cent on Saturday, according to the Union health ministry.

The total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 34,63,972, while the death toll due to the disease climbed to 62,550 with 1,021 people succumbing to it in a span of 24 hours, the ministry's data updated at 8 am showed.

The COVID-19 case fatality rate has further declined to 1.81 per cent in the country.

There are 7,52,424 active coronavirus cases in the country currently, which account for 21.72 per cent of the total caseload, the data showed.The western Indian state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai, recorded 331 fatalities, the steepest single-day increase among all states over the past two days.

India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7 and the 30-lakh mark on August 23.The government might allow underground train networks to partially reopen, local media reported, an easing that Delhi’s chief minister has said is necessary to get the city back to full speed.

On Friday, lawmaker H. Vasanthakumar from the country’s main opposition party Congress became the latest high profile figure to die from COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus.

High-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19

For every million population, India's coronavirus cases and fatalities are one of the lowest compared to the global averages, the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 was informed on Saturday. At its 20th meeting held here on Saturday, the GoM on COVID-19 was briefed on the current status of the coronavirus outbreak in India, the health ministry said.

The meeting was informed that as of Saturday, eight states – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana – contribute around 73 per cent of the active caseload.Seven states — Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — account for 81 per cent of total deaths due to coronavirus infection.At the meeting, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the country has made tremendous strides in containing the COVID-19 outbreak and instructed his ministry to develop standard operating procedures (SoPs), comprising COVID protocols and preventive measures, for Parliament and Assembly sessions.

The GoM expressed concern about the forthcoming festival season and advised everyone to adopt safe and COVID-appropriate behaviour."The global comparison depicted that India has one of the lowest cases per million (2,424) and deaths per million (44) compared to the global average of 3,161 and 107.2 respectively," the ministry said.It underlined that despite being resource-constrained and densely populated, timely lockdown and rapid augmentation of infrastructure have enabled India to keep cases per million and deaths per cent million considerably low compared to other countries.

"In the month since the last meeting of GoM on July 31, we have made tremendous strides in containing the disease. As many as 26.4 lakh have already recovered. The country's case fatality rate is at its lowest at 1.81 per cent and consecutively recovery rate has increased to 76.47 per cent," he said.

He further informed the GOM that with the creation of sufficient health facilities, the health infrastructure in the country has been amply strengthened.

Also, only 0.29 per cent of cases are on ventilators, 1.93 per cent on ICU and only 2.88 per cent of cases are on oxygen support, the health minister said.

"A total of 1,576 labs at present have led to an upsurge in testing and the goal of 10 lakh tests per day has been fulfilled. More than nine lakh samples were tested in the last 24 hours and this has led to the cumulative number of tests crossing the four-crore mark," he added.

Vardhan also informed the GoM that more than 338 lakh N-95 masks, nearly 135 lakh PPEs and about 27,000 ventilators have been provided by the Centre to the states and UTs.

Dr Vinod K Paul, Chairperson of the Empowered Group-1 on Medical Emergency management plan, apprised the GoM of the process of COVID vaccine development in India and around the world.

He stated that 29 vaccine candidates, including two Indian, are in clinical trials. Of them, six are in phase-three of the trial.

In India, Bharat Biotech's vaccine candidate, based on inactivated virus procured by the ICMR, is in the phase-two trial along with that of Zydus Cadila, which is based on viral DNA. The Oxford vaccine candidate being put in trial by the Serum Institute of India is already in phase-three in Maharashtra and some other states.

Dr Paul also informed the GoM of the progress made by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19.

The group is tasked with facilitation of vaccine development, including trial and stockpiling, sorting out issues of financing, risk management, selection of potential beneficiaries and their order of reference, envisioning logistics, scale-up, digital system, defining principles for selecting beneficiary categories, and defining the scientific basis for selecting vaccine, the statement said.

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan apprised the GOM on the efforts made by the health ministry towards addressing mental health during the pandemic. He stated that the Centre was in direct communication with the states reporting a surge in cases and those with higher mortality rates.

Vardhan was joined by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State, Shipping (Independent Charge), Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh Lal Mandaviya, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey, and Minister of State, Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, and Member (Health) NITI Aayog Vinod Paul virtually.