The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has asked all state governments to avoid large gatherings while celebrating Independence Day and urged them to ensure Covid-19 safety protocols are followed, PTI reported on Friday.

“As a precaution against Covid-19, large congregations in the ceremony be avoided,” the ministry said. “It is imperative that Covid guidelines are followed.”

The Centre also urged all states and Union Territories to carry out a Swachh Bharat campaign at prominent locations.

India on Friday reported 16,561 new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, according to data from the Union health ministry.

The daily positivity rate was 5.44%, and the weekly positivity rate was 4.88%.

The Covid-19 toll increased to 5,26,928 with 49 new fatalities. Of these, 10 deaths from Kerala had taken place earlier but were recorded on Wednesday, according to PTI.

The country’s active caseload stands at 1,23,535.

India has registered 18,053 recoveries in the last 24 hours. The countrywide recovery rate is currently at 98.53%.

Last week, the Centre had written to Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana amid a rise in coronavirus cases in these states. In the letter, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked the authorities to ensure adequate Covid-19 testing, promote pandemic-appropriate behaviour and increase the pace of vaccination.

Bhushan also warned of increased transmission of the disease during the ongoing festive season.

The health secretary pointed out that Delhi has been reporting a high number of daily cases in the past one month.

In his letter, Bhushan also said that Kerala reported an average of 2,347 cases a day in July, while Maharashtra logged 2,135 infections.

The states were also asked to closely monitor districts reporting higher cases, positivity rates and clusters to prevent further spread of the infection.