New Delhi: The COVID-19 case tally crossed the 50-lakh mark on Tuesday with the government saying that the number of recoveries in India was amongst the highest in the world and the country learnt from the experience of nations that suffered high mortalities to avoid a “huge peak” in terms of deaths.

The Centre also asserted that there was absolutely “no shortage” of medical oxygen, vital in the treatment of coronavirus, at the national level, while urging states to ensure a proper inventory management at hospital-level and advance planning for timely replenishment so that there is no stockout.

At a press briefing, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr Balram Bhargava, also said reinfection was “very, very rare” with COVID-19, but it can happen.

Bhargava, however, said it was not a matter of serious concern.

Asserting that India has one of the highest number of COVID-19 recoveries, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said there are 14 states and union territories (UTs) in the country where the number of active cases are less than 5,000.

He said there are 18 states and UTs where the total number of active cases are between 5,000 and 50,000, while there are only four states with more than 50,000 active cases.

“India’s COVID-19 recoveries have surged to more than 38.59 lakh, which is one of the highest in the world. According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, this is the highest number of recoveries in the world,” Bhushan said.

India’s COVID-19 case tally stands at 49,30,236 with 83,809 people testing positive in a day, while 38,59,399 people have recuperated so far taking the national recovery rate to 78.28 per cent on Tuesday, according to Union Health Ministry data.

The death toll climbed to 80,776 with 1,054 people succumbing to the disease in a span of 24 hours, data showed.

However, a PTI tally, compiled from the data provided by states and UTs, showed that the total number of cases stand at 50,05,963, while the recoveries have surged to 39,26,096. The tally put the death toll at 81,989.

Talking about India’s COVID-19 fight, Bhargava said, “If you look at the countries of Europe and the United States, they had a peak and then they came down and during that peak whether it was Spain, the UK or Sweden or Italy, there were huge number of mortalities…There was a peak which came down and then they had a second wave which is recently occurring in those countries.”

“Fortunately, we took learnings from that in India and we were able to, what we call, ‘distribute the curve’. We distributed the curve in such a way that we did not have those large number of deaths and that was attributable scientifically because of a very effective lockdown that was imposed in the months late March, April and May. So, we did not really have a huge peak from that perspective,” he said.

Minister of State (MoS) for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Choubey, in response to a question in Rajya Sabha, said the lockdown from March 25 to May 31 successfully controlled the aggressive progression of COVID-19 in India but there has been a steady rise in cases post-lockdown.

In his remarks, Bhargava also said the National Task Force on COVID-19 and the joint monitoring group (JMG) in the health ministry will take a decision on whether to continue plasma therapy in the treatment of COVID-19 patients after reviewing the data of its randomised controlled trial.

Asserting that there has been a progressive rise in India’s COVID-19 testing, Bhushan said, “We took 27 days to double our testing from 1 crore to 2 crore. However, we took only 10 days to jump from 4 crore tests to 5 crore tests.”

Over 5.8 crore tests have been conducted so far, out of which more than 76 lakh tests were conducted in the last week.

Five states – Maharashtra (29.5%), Karnataka (9.9%), Andhra Pradesh (9.4%), Uttar Pradesh (6.8%) and Tamil Nadu (4.7%) – account for 60 per cent of the total active cases in the country, Bhushan said.

He presented a graph showing the daily average of new cases on a week-on-week basis, starting from first week of July in the top five states.

The graph shows an increasing trend of cases in Maharashtra, while stabilisation is observed over the last three weeks in Karnataka, Bhushan said.

India’s cases per million population at 3,573 is amongst the lowest in the world, while the global average is 3,704, he said.

He underlined that India’s COVID-19 deaths per million population at 58 is also amongst the lowest in the world, against global average of 118.

Meanwhile, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has said India’s willingness to play a “big role” in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine and allow it to supply to other developing countries will be a critical part in containing the pandemic globally.

In an interview to PTI, Gates, whose foundation is focusing on fighting the pandemic, called it the “next biggest thing” the world has been confronted with after the World War.

On COVID vaccine development, the ICMR director general said three vaccines are at clinical trial stages in the country and two indigenously developed ones by Cadila and Bharat Biotech have completed phase-I trial.

The results are being analysed and they have completed recruitment for the second phase, he said.

MoS Choubey informed the Rajya Sabha that the Phase-I clinical trials have revealed “excellent safety” of the two candidate vaccines indigenously developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and Cadila Healthcare Ltd and their immunogenicity testing is now in progress.

He said around 40 lakh people have been kept under surveillance as a part of the contact-tracing efforts and 5.4 crore samples were tested for coronavirus till September

India is the second worst-hit nation in terms of COVID-19 cases after the US, while it is in the third spot in fatalities after the US and Brazil, according to Johns Hopkins University data. PTI