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India recorded the highest-ever single-day covid-19 vaccinations, with more than 3.67 million doses administered in the last 24 hours, the Union health ministry said on Friday. As the country kicked off the third phase of inoculation drive on Thursday, the 76th day of the vaccination drive covering all persons above 45 years of age irrespective of co-morbidities, 3,671,242 vaccine doses were administered. Of this, 3,365,597 beneficiaries were vaccinated across 51,215 sessions for first dose and 305,645 beneficiaries received the second dose of vaccine.

The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on 16 January 2021. The vaccination of healthcare workers (HCWs) and frontline workers (FLWs) started from 2 February 2021. The second phase of covid-19 vaccination commenced from 1 March 2021 for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions. The third phase was rolled out from 1 April 2021.

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Cumulatively, more than 68.7 million (68,789,138) vaccine doses have been administered through 1,137,456 sessions, according to the Union health ministry’s provisional report till 7 am on Friday. These include 8,306,269 HCWs (first dose), 5,284,564 HCWs (second dose), 9,353,021 FLWs (first dose) and 4,097,634 FLWs (second dose), 9,783,615 (first dose) and 39,401 (second dose) beneficiaries aged more than 45 years with specific co-morbidities and 31,705,893 (first dose) and 218,741 (second dose) beneficiaries aged more than 60 years.

Eight states account for 59.58% of the cumulative doses given so far. Maharashtra alone accounts for 9.48% of the total doses given in India, the Union health ministry data shows.

While the covid-19 vaccination drive is progressing fast, the burden of covid-19 pandemic is in parallel increasing in the country. The country recorded over 81,466 fresh covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours.

“Eight states—Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh—have shown a steep rise in the covid-19 daily new cases. 81.25% of the new cases are reported from these 8 states," said the Union health ministry, adding that Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 43,183. It is followed by Chhattisgarh with 4,617 while Karnataka reported 4,234 new cases.

India’s total active caseload has reached 614,696, climbing to 5% of the country's total positive cases from a low of around 1.2% about three months ago. It is a net increase of 30,641 cases recorded from the total active caseload in the last 24 hours, the Union health ministry data shows.

Five states—Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Punjab—cumulatively account for 77.91% of the total active cases in the country. Maharashtra alone accounts for nearly 60% (59.84%) of the total active caseload of the country. Also, 469 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. Six states account for 83.16% of the new deaths. Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (249). Punjab follows with 58 daily deaths.

Public health experts have shown concern over the disturbing trend. “There are varied reasons for the rise in infections witnessed over the past few days. [It could be] due to a reduction in testing as a significant decline is being observed in the number of tests that are being conducted. Besides testing, the upsurge of covid infections is also due to “contact tracing" as different protocols have been standardized by different states in India, of which it is unable to trace confirmed cases and uncontrolled social gatherings in public places," said Suresh Sharma, head, Population Research Centre, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University.

Sharma argued that furthermore, it is also witnessed that there has been complacency among individuals in adhering to covid-19 protocols such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and washing hands at regular intervals although a major part of the population still remains vulnerable to the disease.

“People have a feeling that the vaccine can curtail the infection and perhaps is the solution to the current situation. Minimum gatherings should be congregated in weddings, religious places and get-togethers. Vaccination also plays a key role in reducing the transmission of the infection by vaccinating the top-notch which includes people having co-morbidities and other affluent categories," said Sharma.

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