281,386 fresh corona cases recorded in the last 24 hours as the country’s daily infections go below the 3 lakh mark for the first time in 26 days.

India’s daily spike of coronavirus cases remained below the 3 lakh mark for the first time in nearly 26 days as only 2,81,386 fresh infections were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry’s data on Monday.

Out of the 2,81,386 new cases registered in 24 hours, Maharashtra reported the highest daily new cases at 34,389, followed by Tamil Nadu with 33,181 new cases. There has been an average decline in daily new cases since May 9, the Ministry pointed out.

Besides the new cases, Health Ministry also reported 4,106 new Covid-related deaths in the country and 3,78,741 fresh recoveries during the 24-hour period. The cumulative caseload stands at 2,49,65,463, including 2,11,74,076 recoveries, 35,16,997 active cases and 2,74,390 deaths.

In another encouraging development, a declining trend in the weekly positivity rate was also observed. It stands at 18.17 percent now, also said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday.

It also pointed out that the national recovery rate improved to 84.25 percent while the mortality rate currently stands at 1.09 percent.

However, experts said that the data was unreliable due to a lack of testing in rural areas where the coronavirus is spreading fast. “There are still many parts of the country which have not yet experienced the peak, they are still going up,” World Health Organization Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan was quoted by Reuters as saying in a newspaper.

S. Vincent Rajkumar, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, also echoed this statement on Twitter. “This drop in confirmed Covid cases in India is an illusion. First, due to limited testing, the total number of cases is a huge underestimate. Second, confirmed cases can only occur where you can confirm: the urban areas. Rural areas are not getting counted.”

Swaminathan also pointed to the “very high” national positivity rate, at about 20% of tests conducted, as a sign that there could be worse to come. “Testing is still inadequate in a large number of states. And when you see high test positivity rates, clearly we are not testing enough. So the absolute numbers actually don’t mean anything when they are taken just by themselves; they have to be taken in the context of how much testing is done, and test positivity rate,” said the scientist.

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a total of 31,64,23,658 samples have been tested for Covid-19 up to 16 May. Of these, 15,73,515 samples were tested on Sunday.

Reuters also noted that while lockdowns have helped limit cases in parts of India during the initial surge of infections in February and April, rural areas and some states are dealing with fresh surges.

Karnataka, which has recently emerged as the new Covid-19 hotspot, remains the worst-affected state at present, with 600,168 active infections. Maharashtra follows with 470,595 active cases. Ten states including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu cumulatively account for 74.69 percent of India’s total active cases, informed the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country reached nearly 18.30 crore on Monday under Phase-3 of the nationwide vaccination drive. A total of 18,29,26,460 vaccine doses have been administered through 26,68,895 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am on Monday.

“These include 96,45,695 HCWs who have taken the 1st dose and 66,43,661 HCWs who have taken the 2nddose, 1,44,44,096 FLWs (1st dose), 81,96,053 FLWs (2nd dose), 52,64,073 beneficiaries under 18-44 age group (1st dose), 5,72,78,554 (1st dose) and 91,07,311 (2nd dose) beneficiaries aged 45 to 60 years. 5,45,15,352 1st dose beneficiaries and 1,78,01,891 2nd dose beneficiaries of more than 60 years old,” the Ministry said.

Furthermore, 2,94,660 vaccine doses are in the pipeline and will be received by the states and union territories within the next three days.