India's COVID-19 death toll crossed the 9,000-mark on Saturday with a record daily increase making it the world's ninth worst hit nation in terms of fatalities, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed steps to contain the pandemic in areas where large numbers of cases are being detected.
The tally of confirmed cases also saw the biggest one-day jump of over 14,000 and reached 3.13 lakh, as per the latest numbers announced by states and union territories.
At a review meeting with senior ministers and officials, Modi also discussed augmenting of COVID-19 testing as well as the number of beds and services required to effectively handle the rising number of daily cases, particularly in large cities.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that Modi directed Health Ministry officials to undertake an "emergency planning" in consultation with states and union territories in view of a government-appointed expert panel's recommendations on city and district-wise requirement of hospital and isolation beds going ahead.
In the wake of a steep rise in the number of cases in Delhi and the projections made by the city government for the tally to reach 5.5 lakh by July-end, Modi also suggested Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to convene an emergency meeting with Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior officials to plan a coordinated and comprehensive response to handle the challenge.
The Home Ministry said Shah and Vardhan will hold these meetings on Sunday.
Modi is also scheduled to interact with state chief ministers and UT representatives through video conference on June 16 and 17 for his sixth round of such interactions over the COVID-19 pandemic, the last being on May 11.
Taking note of the gravity of the coronavirus situation in the national capital, the Delhi High Court also directed the AAP government and the Centre to increase the number of beds and ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
Delhi reported 2,134 new cases and 57 more fatalities, taking its total count of cases to nearly 39,000 and the death toll to 1,271. The national capital has recorded more than 2,000 new cases for two consecutive days now.
At Modi's review meeting, it was observed that out of the total cases two-thirds are in five states with an overwhelming proportion of cases in big cities.
Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Surat, Pune, Indore and Kolkata are among severely hit cities by the pandemic.
In its morning update, the Union Health Ministry said the total number of cases across India has risen to 3,08,993 with an increase of 11,458 new cases in 24 hours since Friday 8 AM, while 386 more fatalities were reported during this period to take the toll to 8,884.
However, the latest figures announced by states and UTs showed the nationwide count of confirmed cases having risen to over 3.13 lakh and the death toll of 9,195, as of 10.50 PM. This showed an increase of more than 14,700 new cases and at least 452 fatalities since Friday night.
However, more than 1.6 lakh people have also recovered so far, leaving close to 1.5 lakh active cases in the country.
According to the global real-time COVID-19 data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, India's count of recoveries is now the sixth largest in the world after the US, Brazil, Russia, Italy and Germany.
However, India has also entered the top-ten in terms of the number of deaths. It is now ranked ninth after the US, Brazil, UK, Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and Belgium. While the US has reported more than 1.14 lakh deaths so far, the eighth-ranked Belgium has recorded 9,650 fatalities.
In terms of overall count of confirmed cases, India is ranked fourth after the US (more than 20 lakh), Brazil (8.3 lakh) and Russia (5.2 lakh).
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in India, reported 3,427 new COVID-19 cases and 113 deaths, including 69 from Mumbai, taking the state's overall case count to over 1.04 lakh and the toll to 3,830. Mumbai city alone has reported 56,831 cases and 2,113 fatalities so far.
The state's Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the government has reduced the rates of the COVID-19 tests conducted by private laboratories from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,200.
Gujarat reported 517 new cases and 33 more deaths, taking its case count to 23,079 and fatalities to 1,449. Of this, 344 new cases and 26 deaths were reported from Ahmedabad, taking the district's own tally to 16,306 cases and 1,165 fatalities.
In Surat, the country's biggest diamond cutting and polishing hub, at least eight diamond units have been partially closed after some workers tested positive.
In Uttar Pradesh, over 500 new cases emerged while 20 more died, taking its overall tally to over 13,000 and the death toll to 385. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath termed the fight against COVID-19 "a war against an invisible enemy" and asked officials to ensure proper arrangements in hospitals to treat patients.
In West Bengal, a senior official said the state government will set up 200 'safe homes' to provide temporary shelter to the large number of migrant workers returning to the state to keep a check on the spread of coronavirus.
The migrant labourers returning to the state will be provided shelter in the safe homes irrespective of them being asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic if they do not have enough space in their homes to follow the isolation norms.
Tamil Nadu reported nearly 2,000 new cases to take its tally to 42,687, which includes more than 30,000 from Chennai itself. The state government announced appointment of 2,000 more nurses in state-run hospitals in Chennai and nearby districts.
New cases were also reported from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Chandigarh, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, among other states and UTs.
In Assam, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said 50,000 random tests would be conducted in Guwahati city following the recent spike in COVID-19 positive cases.
The Union Health Ministry also came out with a revised treatment protocol to deal with the deadly infection, allowing use of antiviral drug Remdesivir in moderate cases and Hydroxychloroquine in patients during the early course of the disease.
It also recommended an off-label application of Tocilizumab, a drug that modifies the immune system or its functioning, and convalescent plasma for treating coronavirus-infected patients in moderate stage of the illness, besides adding loss of smell or taste to the list of COVID-19 symptoms.
In its revised 'Clinical Management Protocols for COVID-19', the Union health ministry, in a turnaround from its earlier decision, advised use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in the early course of the disease, while dropping the use of azithromycin in combination with HCQ in severe cases and those requiring ICU management.