Govt to begin antibody tests in 21 states to check virus prevalence
new cases rising over the past few weeks, India has scaled up its coronavirus disease (Covid-19) testing capacity to one lakh samples a day, nearly two weeks ahead of the Union health ministry’s initial target of reaching that number towards the end of May.
“…the testing capacity has increased in the country and it is 1, 00,000 tests per day with 347 government laboratories and 137 private laboratories. Cumulatively, 17, 62,840 tests have been done so far for Covid-19. Whereas, 86,191 samples were tested yesterday,” said health minister, Harsh Vardhan, in a statement on Tuesday.
The cases doubling time in the past 14 days has been 10.9. Over only the past three days, however, this has improved to 12.2 days. Also, the disease fatality rate is 3.2%, and recovery rate stands at 31.74%, which is better than those in many other affected countries. As of Monday, there have been 2.37% active Covid-19 patients undergoing treatment in the intensive care (ICU), 0.41% patients are critical, and on ventilators, and 1.82% are on oxygen support.
“In view of the surge of returning migrant labourers, States/UTs need to focus on more effective surveillance, contact tracing, adequate testing and timely treatment of all the returnees. This also includes the ones that shall be returning from abroad,” Harsh Vardhan said.
The states have been directed to ramp up the surveillance for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) / Influenza Like Illness (ILI) in the affected and non-affected districts, and take the help of government medical colleges if required.
“Such measures will help to indicate the presence of any possible hidden infection at an early stage, thus helping in its timely containment,” he said.
The ministry, along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is also conducting a community based sero-survey to estimate the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, infection within the Indian households in 69 districts of 21 states, covering at least 24,000 adults.
“The survey is coordinated by ICMR’s National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) and National Institute of Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT), Chennai. This household level cross-sectional survey will cover 24,000 adults distributed equally across four strata of districts categorized on the basis of reported cases of Covid-19,” said ICMR in a statement.
The survey will involve collection of venous blood samples from 400 randomly selected individuals (one per household) from 10 clusters in each district. Samples from each of these individuals will be tested for presence of IgG antibodies using ELISA test developed by ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, and is being manufactured by Zydus Cadilla.
The results of the survey will provide information about the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection in different parts of the country.
Besides this community-based survey, health ministry is also initiating hospital-based surveillance to monitor the trend of infection in all districts.
“It is a part of initiating systemic surveillance to know the extent of disease spread, to determine the future course of action in order to curtail the virus spread. This is the most effective way,” said Giridhara R Babu, Professor and Head Lifecourse Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India.