Nationwide tally sees 6,000-plus spike

NEW DELHI, 22nd May: The nationwide tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by a single-day record of over 6,000 on Friday to cross 1.22 lakh, even as the government asserted the count could have been as high as 30 lakh but for the "rich dividends" of the nationwide lockdown.
Globally, nearly 52 lakh people have tested positive for the deadly virus ever since its emergence in China last December, while 3.3 lakh have lost their lives.
Reeling off various studies, government officials also said up to 2.1 lakh more people could have died in India if the lockdown had not been implemented as "a timely, graded, proactive and preemptive public health measure" to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its morning 8 AM update, the Union Health Ministry put the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 1,18,447 across India with an increase of 6,088 in 24 hours since Thursday 8 AM, while the death toll rose by 148 to 3,583. It also showed 48,534 recoveries so far.
However, a PTI tally of figures announced by different states and union territories, as of 9.20 PM, put the nationwide tally much higher at 1,22,656, the death toll at 3,634 and recoveries at more than 51,000. India has been under a lockdown since March 25, but several restrictions have been eased in the ongoing fourth phase, which began on May 18 and is scheduled to end on May 31, to help revive economic activities.
While several steps have already been initiated to restart business activities and domestic flights would also resume in a phased manner from Monday, the Reserve Bank said on Friday that the macroeconomic impact of the pandemic is turning out to be more severe than initially anticipated, and various sectors of the economy are experiencing acute stress.
The Union Health Ministry officials and members of COVID-19 task forces, however, cited various studies to prove its point that the unprecedented shutdown has paid "rich dividends" in the fight against the pandemic.
The lockdown in India has been a timely, graded, proactive and preemptive public health measure to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and has been part and parcel of the government's overall strategy, Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, and Chairman of a key empowered group, said at a media briefing on the COVID-19 situation. Like the number of cases, the growth rate of COVID-19 deaths too has fallen significantly due to the lockdown, marking a notable difference between pre-lockdown and post-lockdown situations, he said.
At the briefing, Pravin Srivastava, Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation gave model-based estimates on COVID-19 cases and deaths which have been prevented due to the lockdown.
Citing a model by the Boston Consulting Group, he said the lockdown saved between 1.2-2.1 lakh lives, while the number of COVID-19 cases averted is between 36-70 lakh.
Srivastava further said the Public Health Foundation of India's model showed that nearly 78,000 lives have been saved due to the lockdown. He also cited another model by two independent economists suggesting that 23 lakh COVID-19 cases and 68,000 deaths have been averted due to the lockdown.
"We are fully confident that the lockdown, with full public cooperation, has reaped rich dividends," Srivastava said.
Addressing the press briefing, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said 48,534 COVID-19 patients, which is about 41 per cent of the total cases, have recovered so far, while 3,234 have recovered in the last 24 hours.

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