New Delhi:

With a record single-day rise of  3,49,691 new coronavirus infections, India''s total tally of COVID-19 cases climbed to 1,69,60,172, while active cases crossed the 26-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday.

The death toll increased to 1,92,311 with  a record 2,767  daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

Registering a steady increase, the active cases have increased to 26,82,751 comprising 15.82 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 83.05 per cent.

One of two persons undergoing RT-PCR tests in Kolkata and its suburbs is turning out to be Covid-positive. In the rest of the state, one of four RT-PCR report is Covid positive. That is a five-fold jump from the beginning of the month, when only one of 20 tests was positive.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,40,85,110, while the case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.13 per cent, the data stated.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged all citizens to be vaccinated and exercise caution, saying the “storm” of infections had shaken the country.   

"We were confident, our spirits were up after successfully tackling the first wave, but this storm has shaken the nation," Modi said in a radio address.

Modi's government has faced criticism that it let its guard down, allowed big religious and political gatherings to take place when India's cases plummeted to below 10,000 a day and did not plan on building up the healthcare systems.

Hospitals and doctors have put out urgent notices that they were unable to cope with the rush of patients.

People were arranging stretchers and oxygen cylinders outside hospitals as they desperately pleaded for authorities to take patients in, Reuters photographers said.

"Every day, it the same situation, we are left with two hours of oxygen, we only get assurances from the authorities," one doctor said on television.

The country of 1.3 billion people is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, warned in an op-ed published Saturday in the Washington Post.


US to help 

The United States said it was deeply concerned by the massive surge in coronavirus cases in India and was racing to send aid to India.

Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID-19 outbreak," U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on twitter.

"We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India's health care heroes."

The United States has faced criticism in India for its export controls on raw materials for vaccines put in place via the Defense Production Act and an associated export embargo in February.

The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker, this month urged U.S. President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on U.S. exports of raw materials that is hurting its production of AstraZeneca shots.

India's surge is expected to peak in mid-May with the daily count of infections reaching half a million, the Indian Express said citing an internal government assessment.

V.K. Paul, a COVID-task force leader, made the presentation during a meeting with Modi and state chief ministers and said that the health infrastructure in heavily populated states is not adequate enough to cope, according to the newspaper.

In another significant development, India has now become the fastest country in the world to cross the landmark of 14 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses in just 99 days, said the Union Health Ministry.

The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed the landmark of 14 crore on Sunday as part of the world's largest vaccination drive,it said.

The ministry stated that eight states including Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra account for 58.83 per cent of the cumulative doses given so far in the country.

According to the ministry, cumulatively, 14,09,16,417 vaccine doses have been administered through 20,19,263 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am today.

Delhi to extend lockdown for another week

Delh Cihief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday announced extension of the ongoing lockdown in Delhi for another week, saying the severity of Covid-19 was unabated and positivity rate has been as high as 36 percent in the last few days.

The lockdown imposed on April 19 night will now continue till 5 AM on May 3, he said. It was scheduled to end at 5 AM on April 26 before extension.

"We will have to watch the situation for a few more days whether the cases decrease or increase," he said.

The chief minister said the onslaught of coronavirus has not subsided even as the government had imposed six days lockdown as a last weapon in its arsenal.

Maharashtra to give Coronavirus vaccine to all citizens for free

Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik announced that the state will vaccinate all citizens for free.
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in the country by Covid, has been reporting over 60,000 daily coronavirus cases for the last few days.

Adding that the move has been discussed with the state cabinet, Nawab Malik said global tenders will be floated for vaccinations.

Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray had earlier said that a third wave of COVID-19 was likely soon, though it cannot be determined now if it will be as strong as or weaker than the second wave. He also said that even if vaccination doesn't help right away, it will help prepare for the future.

India''s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. It went past  60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on  November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19. India crossed the grim milestone of 1.50 crore on April 19.

According to the ICMR, 27,79,18,810 samples have been tested up to April 25 with 17,19,588 samples being tested on Saturday.