India is likely to join the World Health Organization’s “solidarity trial”, an international study for developing effective drugs against the coronavirus, the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Friday.

The government had not considered participating in the exercise until now because the number of cases of Covid-19 in India had been “small”, ICMR official Raman R Gangakhedkar said at a health ministry press briefing. “Our contribution would have looked minuscule,” he added.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had last week announced the “solidarity trial” to find a cure for Covid-19. He said that since small trials of the coronavirus vaccine with different methodologies may not provide results, the health body, along with its partners, was organising the study to compare untested treatments in several countries. “This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need to show which treatments are the most effective,” he said.

At its press briefing on Friday, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that 75 people had been confirmed to be infected with Covid-19 since Thursday evening. Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said the Centre had ordered public sector undertakings to provide 10,000 ventilators. In addition to this, Bharat Electronics Limited has been requested to buy 30,000 additional ventilators in light of the shortage of the medical equipment in the country, he added.

Reiterating that all preventive measures and practices of social distancing should be diligently followed, the health ministry official added: “If even one person does not follow guidelines related to Covid-19, all our efforts will amount to zero.”

With all OPD services in the country being shut in light of the lockdown, the government has issued national telemedicine guidelines, Agarwal said. “This facilitates the process wherein doctors sitting at their homes can provide services to the patients,” he said. “We urge and request citizens to take advantage of it and doctors to utilise this.”

The toll in the pandemic rose to 17 in India on Friday and the number of patients increased to 724, according to the Union Health Ministry’s latest update. This includes those who have recovered and 640 active cases. State health authorities have announced three other deaths – one in Tumakuru, Karnataka, and two in Bhilwara, Rajasthan – but the Centre has yet to confirm these. India entered the third day of its 21-day nationwide lockdown on Friday.

Fresh cases were also reported in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.