Union health minister Harsh Vardhan told parliament today that India averted a "major crisis" when the coronavirus outbreak started because of the countrywide lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The lockdown "prevented" up to 29 lakh cases, "I congratulate PM Modi," the minister said in a statement to parliament as it started the monsoon session this morning.
"The nationwide lockdown, a bold decision... is testimony to the fact that India has collectively stood up to manage COVID-19 and successfully blunted the aggressive progression of COVID. It has been estimated that this decision prevented approximately 14-29 lakh cases and 37,000 to 78,000 deaths," the minister said.
India, he said, has been able to limit its numbers to 3,328 cases and 55 deaths per million population, which is one of the lowest in the world as compared to similarly-affected countries, the minister said.
India crossed Brazil last week and is now just behind the US in the list of nations worst affected by the coronavirus.
Over the last 24 hours, 92,071 freshly detected cases have pushed the country's coronavirus figure past the 48-lakh mark, data from the Union health ministry showed. The death count has risen to 79,722, with 1,136 more fatalities in 24 hours.
Since the first week of September, the country has been reporting the highest daily tally of coronavirus cases in the world, with an average of 90,000 cases per day.
Mr Harsh Vardhan said the testing rate in the country is much higher than what has been suggested by the World Health Organisation.
The country is also "self-sufficient" in the number of available oxygen cylinders, he said. The Centre has supplied more than 1 lakh oxygen cylinders to the states and Union Territories.
The Centre has asked Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka Telangana - states hit hardest by the pandemic - and Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to ensure adequate oxygen availability in all healthcare facilities.
"The battle with Covid is far from over," Mr Harsh Vardhan said. The need now is a "concerted effort to prevent largescale morbidity, mortality".
Parliament's monsoon session started today amid huge safety measures that included staggered seating and timing, and mandatory tests for coronavirus. Seventeen Lok Sabha MPS have tested positive, sources said.