Covid-19 update: Must learn to live with the virus to beat it, says govt
The government said on Friday that Indians needed to make behavioural changes and learn to live with the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen, which causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), even as it said that close to one in three patients were now free of the viral infection.
In its daily briefings, the central government has previously asserted that Covid-19 necessitates a “new normal” of social distancing and heightened public health vigil, which are essential to stop the advance of the highly infectious disease. On Friday, the country reported 3,241 new cases, taking the total to 59,543 infections, according to official data provided by states.
Union health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said on Friday that a recent spike in cases brought down the doubling rate, the average duration in which cases rise twofold, but added that the peak of the disease can be avoided if the prescribed dos and don’ts are followed.
“We will have to learn to live with the virus, for which it is important to make critical behavioural changes and incorporate all the preventive guidelines that the health ministry has been issuing on following hand hygiene, cough etiquette and social distancing measures, as part of our daily routine. It is an everyday battle for us to keep the infection at bay,” the official said.
He said that with 16,539 people cured of Covid-19, according to the Centre’s data, close to one in three patients were now free of the respiratory disease. “The recovery rate shows that almost one in third infected person has recovered in India. It is a positive sign as it is increasing by the day,” Agarwal said.
HT’s dashboard on Covid-19 cases, which is based on data released by states, shows that the doubling rate over the past week has reduced from close to 12 days to just above 10 days, an alarming trend.
Experts say a graded exit from the national lockdown, which is scheduled to conclude on May 17, could lead to a surge in cases and the peak of the disease could hit between now and August, signalling the importance of aggressive testing and adequate social distancing to keep the disease from spiralling out of control.
With average daily cases over the past week remaining close to 3,000, the government is soon expected to revise its list of “red zones”, hot spots that need special attention to contain the spread of the disease.
“We are aware that at some places, the number of cases has seen an abnormal growth that has also affected the country’s overall doubling rate. States such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan have been reporting higher number of cases, and the Centre is in constant touch with them to assist them by providing technical guidance in implementing stricter containment measures,” Agarwal said.
The number of infected cases needing critical care continued to remain low in India, with 1.1% on ventilator support, 3.2% on oxygen support and 4.7% patients undergoing treatment in intensive care units (ICUs), he added.
There are 216 districts that have not reported any case so far; about 42 districts have had no fresh case in the last 28 days; and 29 districts have not reported any fresh case in three weeks.
The government said that while the health care facilities were prepared to manage the current caseload, other ministries were making additional arrangements to tackle a surge in infections.
“Indian Railways has converted 5,231 of its rail coaches into Covid care centres, to be stationed in 215 identified railway stations for very mild and mild cases. To avoid cross-infection, there will be separate coaches for suspected and confirmed cases. A maximum of two confirmed people can be allowed to share a cabin. As many as 85 stations will have adequate number of medical personnel available to manage the cases. There are about 2,500 doctors and 35,000 paramedical staff from the railways set-aside for Covid-19 management,” said Agarwal.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has also secured approvals from the Covid-19 National Ethics Committee for conducting clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma therapy. The research body has identified 21 sites across India to conduct the trials.
“The sites include five hospitals in Maharashtra, four hospitals in Gujarat, two each in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, and one each in Punjab, Karnataka, Telangana, and the union territory of Chandigarh,” the official said.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday interacted with the state health ministers of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana to review preparedness as part of a daily exercise. He stressed on the need to increase the sampling and testing of severe acute respiratory illnesses and influenza-like illnesses in all districts to determine the exact spread of the disease. He also discussed arrangements made by these states for the quarantine of migrant workers returning to the regions from other states.