New Delhi, April 21:

India witnessed a jump of 295,041 cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and 2,023 deaths in the last 24 hours, both figures are the highest ever since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the latest data released by the Union ministry of health and family welfare on Wednesday morning.

The country’s total infection tally has topped 15.6 million and the active Covid-19 caseload stands at 2,157,538. While India struggles to cope with the second wave of the pandemic in which the fatalities are also rising at a rapid pace, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday said “the challenge is huge, we have to overcome it collectively with determination, courage, and preparation.”

While Delhi has already imposed a six-day lockdown that ends on April 26 morning and Maharashtra is set to announce its decision on it later in the day, PM Modi has asked state governments to consider a complete shutdown only as the last resort. “We have to concentrate on micro containment zones and have to try our best to avoid lockdown,” he said in his address to the nation last evening.

Several states are struggling to meet the demand for oxygen, which is a key element in treating critically ill Covid-19 patients, the Prime Minister has assured that the government is working with speed and sensitivity to meet the increasing demand. “Efforts to increase oxygen production and supply are on at various levels. Measures like installing new oxygen plants, providing one lakh new cylinders, diverting oxygen from the industrial use, Oxygen Rail are being undertaken,” he told the citizens.

The government has also waived import duty on Remdesivir, a key antiviral drug used to treat Covid-19 patients, and its raw materials for over six months to encourage domestic pharmaceutical companies to ramp up their production and reduce its cost amidst the rising demand for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. “In line with PM @NarendraModi’s priority to ensure affordable medical care for COVID-19 patients, imports of Remdesivir API, injection, and specific inputs have been made import duty free. This should increase supply and reduce cost thus providing relief to patients,” Union minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet.