India's COVID-19 tally rises by 64,553; Health Ministry's joint secretary Lav Agarwal tests positive
The highest number of samples were tested COVID-19 on 13 August, the Centre said, adding that 8,48,728 samples were tested
As many as 64,553 new coronavirus cases and 1,007 deaths were reported in India in the last 24 hours, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Friday, taking the total tally to 24,61,191, includes 6,61,595 active cases, 17,51,556 discharged/migrated and 48,040 deaths.
With an increasing number of recoveries, while the recovery rate has crossed 70 percent, the case mortality among COVID-19 patients has further regressed to 1.96 percent and "is steadily declining", the ministry said.
The ministry also said that India tested 8,48,728 samples, the highest number so far for COVID-19, on 13 August. Over 2.76 crore samples have been tested so far, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
On Thursday, the Union Health Ministry said that the week-wise average daily tests conducted saw a sharp increase from around 2.3 lakh in the first week of July 2020 to more than 6.3 lakh in the current week.
Lav Agarwal tests COVID-19 positive
Union health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal, who used to address daily media briefings on the COVID-19 outbreak when it was picking up pace in the country, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
A 1996-batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, Agarwal was the Centre's official spokesperson at national media briefings to provide updates on the COVID-19 situation in the country throughout April and May.
"Dear all, just to inform that I have tested positive for Covid-19 and initiating home isolation as per guidelines. Requesting all my friends, colleagues for self monitoring. Contact tracing will be done by Health Team. Hoping to see everyone soon," the 48-year-old said in a tweet on Friday.
Health ministry media briefings are now addressed by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan with Agarwal also remaining present.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah said that he has tested negative for COVID-19, but he will stay in home isolation for a few more days on the advice of doctors. Shah had tested positive for coronavirus on 2 August and was under treatment in Medanta Hospital, Gurugram.
"Today, my corona test report has come negative. I thank God and at the moment I express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have blessed me and my family by wishing me well. Will stay in home isolation for a few more days on the advice of doctors," he said.
"I also thank all the doctors and paramedical staff of Medanta Hospital who helped me in fighting Corona infection and who are treating me," he added.
Pinarayi Vijayan undergoes COVID-19 test after Malappuram DC tests positive
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and three other ministers on Friday tested negative for coronavirus, hours after quarantining themselves as they came in the primary contact of an official who has contracted the virus, PTI reported.
The results of antigen tests of Vijayan and Health Minister KK Shailaja returned negative, PTI quoted sources at the Kerala CMO, as saying. Ministers AC Moideen and VS Sunil Kumar also tested negative.
At least three other ministers, Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan, Chief Secretary Dr Vishwas Mehta and DGP Loknath Behera also went into self-quarantine on Friday after they came in the primary contact list of Malappuram district collector K Gopalakrishnan who tested positive for COVID-19.
EP Jayarajan, Ramachandran Kadanapally and KT Jaleel are the other three ministers under self-quarantine.
Night curfew restrictions extended in Punjab
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Friday announced extension of the night curfew in all cities from 9 pm to 5 am, along with a slew of other measures to control the spread of the pandemic.
The night-time curfew will now be applicable to all cities, with the exemption of industries, Amarinder said, while announcing sector-based division of big cities, with a nodal officer to be appointed in each sector for contact tracing to assist health teams.
On 7 August, Singh had ordered night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am in the worst-affected cities of Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala. Currently, night curfew in the state remains in force from 11 pm to 5 am.
Singh also announced weekends as 'stay at home' in order to avoid unnecessary movement and socialising in Ludhiana, Patiala and Jalandhar for the next fortnight after which the situation will be reviewed, an official statement said.
In another major decision, it was decided that in every marriage palace, restaurant, office, where more than 10 people gather, a 'COVID-19 Monitor' would be appointed to ensure full compliance of wearing masks, sanitisation and social distancing, said the chief minister at his weekly Facebook live session. He warned that teams will inspect these places and violators will be penalised.
Health workers are 'national heroes', says Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday appreciated the "super-human efforts" in containing the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic in the country and said these are "worth emulating" globally.
In his address to the nation on the eve of the 74th Independence Day, the president complimented the 'COVID-19 warriors' and said the nation is indebted to doctors, nurses and other health workers who have been continuously on the forefront of the country's fight against this virus.
"All corona warriors deserve high praise," Kovind said in his televised address. He said it is "very reassuring" to note that the Centre had "responded effectively and well in time."
"For a country so vast and diverse with high population density, meeting this challenge requires super-human efforts," the president said. He lauded all state governments for taking measures in accordance with local circumstances.
"People also supported wholeheartedly. With our committed efforts, we have succeeded in containing the magnitude of the pandemic and saving a large number of lives. This is worth emulating by the wider world," he said.
The nation is indebted to doctors, nurses and other health workers who have been continuously on the forefront of our fight against this virus, he said.
"Unfortunately, many of them have lost their lives battling the pandemic. They are our national heroes. All corona warriors deserve high praise. They go much beyond their call of duty to save lives and ensure essential services," Kovind said.
These doctors, health workers, members of disaster management teams, police personnel, sanitation workers, delivery staff, transportation, railway and aviation personnel, providers of various services, government employees, social service organisations and generous citizens have been scripting inspiring stories of courage and selfless service, he said.
Bollywood celebrities wish speedy recovery for SP Balasubrahmanyam
Several Bollywood celebrities, including filmmakers Boney Kapoor, Shekhar Kapur, and singer Shankar Mahadevan, prayed for the speedy recovery of renowned singer SP Balasubrahmanyam as he was placed under life support on Friday after his condition deteriorated. Balasubrahmanyam was admitted to hospital on 5 August, and had tested positive for coroanvirus.
"Praying for the Speedy recovery of Legendary Thiru S P Balasubrahmanyam. #SPBalasubrahmanyam" tweeted Kapoor.
Mr India director Kapur also took to Twitter and said, "Praying for the great singer #SPBalasubrahmanyam on a ventilator with #Covid_19."
Music composer and singer Mahadevan, on the other hand, asked everyone to pray for the recovery of the seasoned singer. "Let's all pray for SPB sirs health condition ! Let's pray that he recovers soon and comes back to normalcy (sic)," he tweeted.
"Please pray for SPB sir," tweeted southern star and Raanjhana actor Dhanush.
Almost a week after he was admitted to Chennai's MGM healthcare following coronavirus diagnosis, Balasubrahmanyam was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as his condition deteriorated on Friday.
As per the latest health bulletin by the hospital, the singer is on life support and his condition remains critical.
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