New Delhi:

The Centre said that even though the COVID-19 pandemic is stabilising in large parts of the country, there is still a long way to go to battle this particular wave as the positivity rate is still over 10 per cent in 382 districts and infections were spreading in rural areas where public health services are scarce and already overstretched. .

"While it (spread of coronavirus) has stabilised in many parts of the country, and overall the burden has been lessened, we have a long way to go with this wave," Dr. V. K. Paul, part of a federal government panel on COVID-19 management, told a news conference adding "For the first time, we have seen that rural areas have been affected in this pandemic." .

Active cases in the richest state of Maharashtra and Karnataka, home to the tech hub of Bengaluru, and the coastal state of Kerala had fallen in the last two weeks, health ministry official Lav Agarwal told reporters.

Daily numbers in states including West Bengal, which recently concluded state elections, and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were on the rise, he said.With hospitals overflowing, the health system overwhelmed in the cities and a shortage of vaccines, experts have warned India could face a third wave of infections in coming months.

Addressing a press conference, NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul said India was able to come this far in controlling this pandemic through restrictions on social and economic activities and containment and care measures.

"In large parts of the country, the pandemic is stabilising, the positivity rate and active cases are reducing and recovery rate is rising. It is also being seen that an increase is being seen in other states so this is a mixed picture but overall there has been a decrease in case burden but we have a long way to go to handle this wave and we also have to ensure that there should be no laxity in the steps we take," he said.

"As the situation improves we need to keep ensuring that the chain of transmission remains broken. In 382 districts, the positivity rate is over 10 per cent so there is still a long way to go to battle this particular wave," he said.

Agarwal said a continuous decline in the COVID-19 active cases has been noted in the last 20 days.

"From 17.13 per cent reported on May 3, the active cases now comprise 11.12 per cent of the country's total infections. A positive trend in the recovery has also been noted. The recovery rate which was 81.7 per cent on May 3 has increased to 87.76 per cent now," he said.

Also, the daily recoveries outnumbered daily new cases for ninth consecutive day, he added.

Agarwal said despite consistent increase in daily tests, India's daily positivity rate has declined from 24.83 per cent recorded on May 10 to 12.45 per cent on May 22.

"Also, a slow but relatively better trend in terms of management is being noted in deaths and most fatalities have been noted in six states — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, UP, Punjab, Delhi," he said.

Agarwal said districts reporting week-on-week increase in tests and decline in case positivity has increased from 210 to 303 districts.

"Eight states have more than one lakh active cases and 18 states have more than 15 per cent positivity rate," he said.

Talking about vaccine wastage he said, Covishield vaccine wastage reduced from 8 per cent in March 1 to one per cent now while Covaxin wastage decreased from 17 per cent to 4 per cent in the same period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state authorities have faced widespread criticism for failing to counter the pandemic as many officials gear up for another surge. The slow pace of vaccination in the country is another major concern.

New Delhi's chief minister said city authorities had been forced to halt vaccinations for those aged between 18 and 44 as supplies had run out. The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh urged Modi to help with supplies as the state had no stocks to vaccinate those aged below 45.

Case numbers also rose in neighbouring Nepal, which on Saturday said it had added 8,591 infections in 24 hours to take its total count above the half-million mark.Aim to ramp up daily testing capacity for Covid-19 to 45 lakh by June-end: Centre.