Some localised outbreaks but no community transmission yet: GovtUpdated: Jul 09, 2020 19:22 IST
New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoH&FW) on Thursday reiterated that the high transmission of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) positive cases are localised in some pockets, while categorically ruling out community transmission in the country.
The ministry’s reiteration came amid antibody tests for sero-surveillance to detect Covid-19 in the community are in the works across states.
“There may be some localised pockets, where transmission is high, but there is no community transmission in India,” said Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, after chairing the 19th meeting of the group of ministers (GoM) on Covid-19.
The final result of the pilot sero-survey done by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) across 21 states in April is still under process, and the research body is preparing to launch a follow-up exercise soon.
“These studies are subject to peer-review, and currently, ICMR’s pilot survey to know the spread of infection within the community that was done around mid-April is being peer-reviewed. It will be put out in public domain soon,” said Rajesh Bhushan, an officer on special duty (OSD) at MoH&FW, during a press briefing.
He also announced that a follow-up sero survey by ICMR was also being conducted.
“There is another sero-prevalence study being planned by ICMR across India as a follow-up to its mid-April study. Besides, the data of at least 22,000 samples that were collected as part of the Delhi sero-prevalence survey between June 25 and July 5 across 11 districts by the state government and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is being analysed in 15-odd laboratories of both Delhi and central governments,” Bhushan said.
The blood samples are tested for detecting Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. Usually, the IgG antibodies start appearing after two weeks of the onset of the viral infection and last for several months even after a Covid-19 patient has recovered. The IgG test is not useful for detecting acute infection but indicates an episode of SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease, according to experts.
“Merely knowing the volume of people, who have been infected, will only provide a sense of the extent of the spread of the disease. However, what we must try to know is the quantity and quality of antibodies being produced against the virus. Also, for how long these antibodies stay in human blood in a bid to know if it’s enough to offer protection against the disease,” said Dr. Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology division, ICMR.
ICMR is working towards making Covid-19 testing available even at a district level and in some states even at a block level in a bid to prevent the spread of the contagion.
“We are focusing on the test, track, and treat approach for which we have to ensure that Covid-19 testing is accessible even at the grassroots level for early diagnosis. If we manage to detect the disease in its early stages, then the burden on our health infrastructure, especially hospitals, will be greatly reduced,” said Dr. Nivedita Gupta, scientist, epidemiology division, ICMR.
ICMR has made the testing process smoother by waiving off the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) certificate for a private laboratory while applying for approval to conduct Covid-19 tests.
“We are allowing even those laboratories that have applied for NABL certification to seek ICMR validation for Covid-19 testing. However, these laboratories will be given a month’s time for obtaining the certificate and to submit it to ICMR,” said Dr. Gupta.
Bhushan seeks to ensure that the country’s healthcare infrastructure isn’t unduly burdened amid a widening gulf between Covid-19 active and recovered cases.
At present, India has 3,914 dedicated Covid-19 facilities complete with 3,77,737 isolation beds (without intensive care unit, or ICU, support), 39,820 ICU beds, and 1,42,415 oxygen-supported beds along with 20,047 ventillators.