The count of confirmed COVID-19 cases raced to 1,029 on Saturday, but the Centre maintained that India is yet to witness community transmission of the viral infection and it is focusing on management and prevention of the disease by ramping up Covid-19 hospitals, sample testing, contact-tracing besides intensifying social distancing measures.
According to Statewise confirmed case tallied by different monitoring sites, the total number of positive cases stood at 944 on Saturday evening. However, the Health Ministry’s Saturday morning count showed 938 positive cases in the country. The tally was not revised till late in the evening. The pandemic has claimed 20 lives in the country.
With cases on the rise, the Centre has asked the State Governments to set up health check-up camps and tents for migrant labourers who are travelling back to their native places to prevent them from spreading the disease, if any.
Giving details of the steps being taken to combat coronavirus which has killed over 28,000 people across countries, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Aggarwal said that doctors from the States are being trained on management of Covid-19 patients with the help of AIIMS in Delhi while rigorous contact-tracing is underway. Many States are in the process of setting up dedicated Covid-19 hospitals.
They have also been asked to ramp up their capacity to manage an increasing number of cases. At least 17 States have started work on it.
Incidentally, the number of coronavirus cases may have been surging with a few patients in Bihar showing no traceable source of exposure but Raman R Gangakhedkar, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases at ICMR, said that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest social transmission of coronavirus has begun in India.
“There are some sporadic instances where cases have not revealed any history of exposure. But the numbers are not so exponential that we take it to mean that the virus is spreading rapidly,” he said.
“It is all dependent on a person’s memory and also whether they want to reveal their history or not. Some people didn’t even reveal that they tested positive while others hid their travel history. Till we see a significant number of cases to indicate community transmission, let us not overinterpret things,” Gangakhedkar added.
However, he said that testing criteria has been expanded with all patients having severe acute respiratory illness are also being tested for Covid-19.
According to experts, the term community transmission means that the source of infection for the spread of an illness is unknown or a link in terms of contacts between patients and other people is missing. It refers to the difficulty in grasping the epidemiological link in the community beyond confirmed cases.
Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases at 167, followed by Kerala, and Karnataka and Telangana. A 74-year-old from Hyderabad tested positive for coronavirus after his death, making him the first fatality from the virus in Telangana. Kerala also recorded its first death – a 69-year-old man who returned from Dubai and was under treatment at the Kalamassery Medical College following symptoms of pneumonia. The man’s wife and the cab driver who took them from the airport to their house are also infected and undergoing treatment at the same hospital.
“The States have been asked to work for creation of separate hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. The States are also creating isolation wards,” said Aggarwal.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases crossed six lakhs on Saturday while over 28,000 people have been killed due to the infection which has engulfed almost every country across the globe.
Replying to a query, Aggarwal said that comorbid conditions are major factor for the deaths cases while it has been found that, as per reports world over also, elderly people are at a higher risk. He also said that chronic patients with associated ailments will be delivered medicines at home.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister inaugurated 24×7 national tele-medicine facility 9115444155 at AIIMS for better COVID-19 management. Union Health Minister Dr Harshvardhan said, “We have opened a COVID-19 National Teleconsultation Centre today for doctors who are treating people with virus so that they can get in touch with other doctors for consultation regarding treatment of any patient. Helpline number is 9115444155.”
The Ministry has also released guidelines for telemedicine. “People who cannot go to hospitals but need advice regarding medicine they are taking or any other medical problem can take telephonic advice from doctors. It has also been given legal sanctity by our policy,” he said.
On the question that why antimalarial drug Hydroxycholoquine is being recommended to the Covid-19 patients, an ICMR official said that reduction in viral load has been observed in such patients who were given the drug.
In the meantime, SRL Diagnostics on Saturday said that ICMR has allowed their two clinical reference labs, at Mumbai and Gurgaon, to conduct tests for COVID-19.
SRL Diagnostics CEO Arindam Haldar said in a statement that the lab has initiated testing, but currently there is a shortage situation for approved commercial kits for testing and PPE for sample collection, and, “we are trying our level best to bring the supply situation to match possible demand.”
Sunday, 29 March 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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