India has reported 24,010 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s total caseload to 99,56,558, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informed on Thursday.

With 355 new deaths, the toll mounted to 1,44,451. According to the Union Health Ministry, there are 3,22,366 total active cases in the country. The total number of discharged cases is at 94,89,740 with 33,291 new discharges in the last 24 hours.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a total of 15,78,05,240 samples tested for COVID-19 up to December 16. Of these, 11,58,960 samples were tested on Wednesday.

Maharashtra continues to be the worst-hit state with 18,80,893 cases to date. Over 70 per cent of the daily new cases were being reported by 10 states and union territory and in a random order, they are Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh.

The Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan last week had said that COVID-19 has greatly magnified the need for building resilient health care systems and ensuring their indiscriminate, equitable access to all.

“We must do away with the status quo that got us here and settle for nothing less than strong health systems that protect everyone — now and in the future. It has been my long-standing belief that India has the ability to deliver to the world, a robust model for providing universal health coverage,” he said.

As many as eight COVID-19 vaccine candidates are under different stages of clinical trials which could be ready for authorisation in near future, including three indigenous vaccines.

It includes Astrazeneca and Oxford university developed and Serum Institute of India manufactured Covishield; Covaxin by Bharat Biotech Limited; ZyCoV-D by Zydus Cadila; the Russian vaccine candidate Sputnik-V; NVX-CoV2373 by SII; HGCO19 by Geneva, and two unlabelled vaccines — Recombinant Protein Antigen based vaccine by Biological E Limited and Inactivated rabies vector platform by Bharat Biotech.

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