India recorded 48,698 coronavirus cases and 1,183 deaths in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Saturday. With this, the country’s overall count of infections since the pandemic broke out in 2020 rose to 3,01,83,143. The toll increased to 3,94,493.

India’s tally of active cases reduced by 1.97% to 5,95,565, while the number of recoveries reached 2,91,93,085. The active caseload has dropped below the six-lakh mark for the first time in 86 days.

The daily positivity rate was 2.79%, the health ministry said, adding that it was less than 5% for 19 consecutive days. The weekly positivity rate also remained below 5%.

As many as 40,18,11,892 samples have been tested for the coronavirus disease so far, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. Of this, 17,45,809 samples were tested on Friday alone.

Even though India’s daily cases have now begun to decline, the Centre on Friday warned that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic was not yet over, according to ANI. As many as 75 districts still have more than 10% prevalence of coronavirus cases, while 92 districts have a 5% to 10% prevalence.

The Delta variant was responsible for the devastating second wave, which, at its peak, saw more than 4 lakh cases, and thousands of deaths every day. Several states experienced crippling shortages of oxygen, hospital beds, medical supplies and vaccines, causing citizens to take to social media to ask for help.

On June 14, the World Health Organization had classified the Delta variant as a “variant of concern”. The Delta plus variant, formally known as AY.1 or B.1.617.2.1, is a mutation of the Delta variant. It was also classified as a “variant of concern” on Tuesday. A “variant of concern” has the highest threat perception among other coronavirus variants because of its increased transmissibility, infectivity, or resistance to vaccines.

The Union health ministry said on Friday that India has detected 48 cases of the Delta plus variant of the coronavirus disease. The maximum number of cases were reported in Maharashtra (20), followed by Tamil Nadu (nine), Madhya Pradesh (seven), Kerala (three), two each in Punjab and Gujarat and one each from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to the chief secretaries of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana to step up containment and contact tracing to prevent the spread of the Delta Plus variant.

The Centre also said that pregnant women “can and should” be vaccinated against Covid-19, signalling a policy change following growing concerns of exposure of expectant mothers and their children to the infection, and their right to get vaccinated, according to NDTV.

Globally, the coronavirus disease has infected over 18 crore people and killed more than 39.08 lakh since the pandemic broke out in December 2019, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the other top updates from Friday:

  1. Maharashtra recorded the first death due to the Delta plus variant of coronavirus after an 80-year-old woman with comorbidities in Ratnagiri district died of the infection. Following this, the state government decided to impose strict restrictions.
  2. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of lying about a report that suggested that the Aam Aadmi Party government in the national Capital exaggerated demand for oxygen in the city during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
  3. The Serum Institute of India said it has begun production of the first batch of Covovax, a coronavirus vaccine developed by biotechnology company Novavax. The vaccine showed an overall efficacy of 90.4% in phase three trials.
  4. Several bodies that were buried in the sandbanks of the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj district have floated up in the last few days as the water level rose due to monsoon rains. These bodies were suspected to be of Covid-19 patients.
  5. Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday denied paying for or receiving any Covid-19 vaccine doses from Indian firm Bharat Biotech. His statement came amid a federal investigation into alleged irregularities in a contract between Brazil’s health ministry and Bharat Biotech for 20 million (2 crore) doses of Covaxin.