India reported 131,968 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, a record increase for a third straight day, data from the health ministry showed.

Deaths rose by 780 to a total of 167,642.

With an overall tally at 13.06 million, India’s overall caseload was the third-highest globally, behind the United States and Brazil.

India reported another record number of new COVID-19 infections on Friday with daily deaths also hitting their highest in more than five months as the country battles a second wave of infections and states complain of a persistent vaccine shortage.

That took India's overall caseload to 13.06 million – the world's third-highest after the United States and Brazil – and total deaths from COVID-19 to 167,642. India's total number of infections inched closer to Brazil's 13.28 million.

With several states having expanded curbs to control the rapid spread of the virus, migrant workers have started packing into trains towards their villages from major cities such as Mumbai, potentially risking a wider outbreak in smaller towns.

The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as businesses gradually reopened since the middle of last year.

"We all know that it's because of the casual approach that has been adopted unfortunately by the society and some sort of laxity everywhere in following the discipline of the COVID- appropriate behaviour," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told a news conference.

He said on Thursday there was no shortage of shots for the groups eligible for vaccination, with more than 43 million doses in stock or in the pipeline. India has been inoculating about 4 million people a day.

Harsh Vardhan informed that 0.46 per cent of active COVID-19 patients are on ventilators and 2.31 per cent are in ICU.

"Right now 0.46 per cent of the active critical patients are on ventilators, 2.31 per cent are in the ICU, and 4.51 per cent are on oxygen-supported beds," Harsh Vardhan said while speaking at the 24th meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19.

"Our fatality rate continues to come down. Right now it is at 1.28 per cent," the Union Health Minister added.

The ministers in the meeting are discussing the current national and international scenario of coronavirus pandemic and strategies that are to be adopted for availability and distribution of vaccines in the coming days.

Ten states including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Rajasthan have shown a steep rise in daily COVID-19 cases accounting for 83.29 percent of the new infections, the Union Health Ministry said.

Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 56,286. It is followed by Chhattisgarh with 10,652 while Uttar Pradesh reported 8,474 new cases.

India's total active caseload has increased to 9,79,608 and now comprises 7.50 percent of the country's total infections. A net incline of 69,289 cases has been recorded in the total active caseload in a span of 24 hours.

Five states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala cumulatively account for 73.24 percent of India's total active cases. Maharashtra alone accounts for 53.84 percent of the total active caseload of the country.

Vardhan also informed that 149 districts have not seen a case in last seven days, eight districts have not seen a case in last 14 days, three districts have not seen a case in last 21 days and as many as 63 districts have not seen a case in last 28 days.

He also lauded India's vaccination drive saying that the latest figures suggested that 9,43,34,262 doses have been given to people in India.

"In the last 24 hours, we have given 36,91,511 doses. Last week we even gave 43 lakh doses one day, probably the highest given anywhere in the whole world," he added. As far as healthcare workers are concerned, over 89 lakhs have got first dose and over 54 lakhs have got the second dose.

The surge in cases has been far sharper than last year, triggering widespread calls for the vaccination of younger people. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected the idea on Thursday, citing the need to prioritise the more vulnerable, elderly population.

Inoculations are currently limited to those aged over 45 and health and frontline workers. Much of the country has fallen behind safety protocols, the most glaring example being election rallies, where politicians including Modi and Interior Minister Amit Shah have greeted hundreds of thousands of supporters, most of whom were not wearing masks.

The government has refused to impose another national lockdown, but Modi said night curfews were an effective way to keep people alert.