India has used the 30 days of its nationwide lockdown to minimise the spread of the coronavirus, to ramp up testing, and prepare itself for any future spread of the infection, the head of a central government panel dealing with the situation claimed on Thursday.
CK Mishra said the growth of the number of Covid-19 cases in India had been “more or less linear, not exponential” as it had been in many other countries. In a linear curve, growth remains same in successive time intervals, but exponential curves are characterised by increasingly bigger growths, leading to many times of increment in just a few days.
Mishra, a former health secretary and presently the environment secretary, heads one of 11 empowered committees set up by the Centre during the Covid-19 crisis. His panel looks into the availability of hospitals, isolation and quarantine facilities among other aspects.
Mishra said that India had ramped up its Covid-19 testing in the last 30 days – from 14,915 tests done until March 23, the cumulative number had risen 33 times to over 5 lakh by April 22. However, he added: “We are conscious of the fact that this is not enough and we have to continuously ramp up testing in the country and we will do that.”
While listing out the successes of India’s fight against Covid-19, Mishra added that India was still finding the infection in only around 4.5% of the individuals it was testing, and this figure had remained nearly stable during the period of the lockdown. He said India had done better than many developed countries in this aspect.
“The growth of Covid-19 cases has been more or less linear, not exponential,” Mishra said. “This indicates that the strategies we adopted have succeeded in containing the infection to a particular level. Post imposition of lockdown, while the number of new positive cases has increased by 16 times, testing increased by 24 times.”
Mishra said that the number of isolation beds had increased 3.5 times since last month and the number of hospitals 3.6 times. “Currently, our hospitals are not overwhelmed, but the preparation has to be of a much higher order, given the projections and our limitations,” he added.
Joint Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said at the same press briefing that the number of districts that had recorded cases earlier but have not had any in the last 14 days has risen to 78. Meanwhile, there are 12 districts now that have not had a single new case in the last 28 days despite having some earlier.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria urged citizens not to attach stigma to Covid-19 patients, who he said were “symbols of hope and victory”. He said the disease was not too serious, but due to the stigma, some possibly infected patients were reluctant to get themselves tested, which could worsen their condition.
India had imposed a nationwide lockdown to deal with the pandemic on March 25. On April 14, the lockdown was extended till May 3. On Thursday evening, the toll in the pandemic in India rose to 686, while the total number of cases reached 21,700, the ministry said. However, the Indian Council of Medical Research said at least 21,797 people have tested positive so far. The ministry said it was reconciling its figures with those of the ICMR.