New Delhi: Eight Maharashtra districts figure in the list of the 10 districts across the country with the highest number of active Covid-19 cases, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Karnataka's Bengaluru Urban and Delhi are the other two.

Addressing a press meet, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that India's total active cases stand at 5,40,720 with a net rise of 18,912 cases in a span of 24 hours.

"There are 10 districts across the country that have the most number of active cases - Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bengaluru Urban, Nanded, Delhi and Ahmednagar," he added.

Highlighting the need for rigorous testing and tracking of Covid-19 cases, he said there was a need to exponentially increase tests in states and Union Territories that are reporting a spike.

"The kind of result we have seen in past few weeks... it has observed that contract tracing is not being done properly. There should be effective and prompt tracing of persons in contact with Covid-19 patients and it should be done within 72 hours," he said.

States and district authorities have been advised to prefer RT-PCR testing up to 70 per cent.

The Health Ministry said that the weekly national average positivity rate of India reached 5.65 per cent, with Maharashtra having a weekly average of 23 per cent, Punjab of 8.82 per cent, Chhattisgarh 8 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 7.82 per cent, Tamil Nadu 2.50 per cent, Karnataka 2.45 per cent, Gujarat 2.2 per cent and Delhi 2.04 per cent.

Six states, including Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, accounted for 78.56 per cent of the 56,211 fresh cases recorded in the country.

Bhushan said: "It has observed that Covid-19 protection measures are not being followed in these states and districts and therefore we have asked the authorities to use community force and use law and order to enforce the system. We have learned that in most places, authorities are allowing home quarantine for Covid-19 infected persons, but there is no proper monitoring whether norms are being followed or not. So, we have advised institutional quarantine."

COVID-19 2nd Wave: Situation Going From Bad To Worse, Says VK Paul

The current coronavirus situation in the country is going from bad to worse with the surge in cases and the trends showing that the virus is still very active, NITI Aayog's Member (Health) V.K. Paul cautioned on Tuesday.

Addressing the weekly press conference, Paul said: "As you have noticed in the last few weeks, the situation is becoming bad to worse. It is a serious cause of concern. In some states in particular, there is a huge cause of worry. No part of the country should be complacent."

Against the backdrop of increasing cases in the previous three weeks, Paul said that the trends show is that "coronavirus is still very active, can penetrate our defences and strike back when we think that we have found ways to control it".

India recorded 56,211 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours taking the total tally to 1,20,95,855 on Tuesday. Six states -- Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat -- continue to report a surge in daily new cases.

This is the second peak. India had fought through the first wave of infection six months ago, recording a highest single-day spike of 93,617 cases on September 16, while the highest number of deaths recorded in a day were 1,169 on September 15.

Paul said: "We are facing an increasingly severe intensive situation, more so in some districts but the whole country is potentially at risk. If the cases are more, they will eventually overwhelm the system. The deaths will also occur, even if they are low. If it is business as usual, we will continue to be chased by the virus."

He, however, assured that the country has sufficient capacities in the hospitals, ambulance services and ICU beds are functional. "Dedicated hospitals set up must be re-energised, re-tested and rehearsed so that the load of patient come, we are able to manage it effectively," he said.