The Union government has released Rs 8,873.6 crore to states as the first instalment of the central share of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for 2021-22. The fund will be utilised for various COVID-19 containment measures, including setting up of hospitals and oxygen generation. The Union Home Ministry said as a special dispensation, the Department of Expenditure, under the Ministry of Finance, has released the amount in advance of the normal schedule at its recommendation. Normally, the first instalment of the SDRF is released in June according to the recommendations of the Finance Commission. However, in relaxation of the normal procedure, not only has the release of the SDRF been advanced but the amount has also been released without waiting for the utilisation certificate of the amount provided to the states in the last financial year. Up to 50% of the amount released, that is Rs 4,436.8 crore, can be used by the states for COVID-19 containment measures, the statement said. The funds from the SDRF may be used by the states for various measures related to the containment of COVID-19, including meeting the cost of oxygen generation and storage plants in hospitals, ventilators, air purifiers, strengthening ambulance services, COVID-19 hospitals, COVID care centres, consumables, thermal scanners, personal protective equipment, testing laboratories, testing kits, containment zone, etc, it said. According to data updated by the Union Health Ministry on Saturday morning, India crossed the grim milestone of four lakh COVID-19 cases in the country. The infection tally rose to 1,91,64,969 with 4,01,993 new cases, while the active cases crossed the 32-lakh mark. The death toll rose to 2,11,853 with 3,523 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. Registering a steady increase, the active cases stood at 32,68,710, accounting for 17.06 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 81.84 per cent.