The Union health ministry on Saturday announced that it will deploy central teams to 10 states with a high number of coronavirus cases. “The teams will assist the State Health departments of respective states to facilitate management of Covid-19 outbreak,” it said in a statement.

Last week, the government formed public health teams to identify the gaps in 20 districts of the country that have registered the maximum coronavirus cases. Another team, headed by the ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal, had also visited Mumbai for an on-spot assessment of the situation.

The new teams will be deployed in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. “The team shall support the state health department in implementation of containment measures in the affected areas within the respective states’ districts/cities,” the ministry said.

The expert teams will have a senior official from the health ministry, a joint secretary-level nodal officer and a public health expert to assist the states in containing the coronavirus outbreak.

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ICMR partners with Bharat Biotech for vaccine

Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the country’s nodal body for coronavirus testing, on Saturday announced a research collaboration with Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd to develop a fully indigenous vaccine for the infection, PTI reported.

The medical body, in a statement, said it had transferred the virus strain isolated at the National Institute of Virology in Pune to BBIL. “Work on vaccine development has been initiated between the two partners,” it added. “The ICMR-NIV will provide continuous support to BBIL for vaccine development. ICMR and BBIL will seek fast-track approvals to expedite vaccine development, subsequent animal studies and clinical evaluation of the candidate vaccine.”

However, no further details were given on whether any pre-clinical studies were done or the basis for which this appeared to be a promising step forward for successfully developing a vaccine.

ICMR to test for community transmission in 75 districts

ICMR also said it will initiate a study in the worst-affected 75 hotspot districts in the country to check for community transmission of the coronavirus. Community transmission is said to take place when the source of infection for a large number of cases in an area cannot be traced. This is the third stage of the spread of the virus when individuals get infected without having travelled to other countries or having been in contact with known confirmed cases.

“As a part of the study, people from red, orange and green zones in a district will be tested for Covid-19 at random to check whether they have developed antibodies against the infection even though they remained asymptomatic or showed mild symptoms,” an unidentified official told PTI.

Scientists at the Indian Council of Medical Research aim to start the study at the earliest. The ICMR, which was supposed to use the rapid antibody test kits for the survey, will now use the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test used in HIV detection for their study, according to The Hindu.

As of Sunday morning, India recorded 62,939 coronavirus cases and 2,109 deaths. At least 50% of these cases have been reported from five major cities Delhi, Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and Chennai in Tamil Nadu.