The Centre claimed on Thursday that India is “definitely not” in the stage of community transmission of the novel coronavirus, despite a sharp increase in cases over the last few days. During the community transmission stage of a pandemic, new cases cannot be traced to any source of infection.
“There is heightened debate around the term [community transmission] and then the World Health Organization has not defined it,” Indian Council of Medical Research Director General Dr Balram Bhargava said at a press briefing. “The prevalence is so low in our country, below 1%. In urban areas it is little higher and a little higher in containment zones. We are definitely not in community transmission.”
Concerns about community spread strengthened after Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on June 9 that the city is likely to have 5.5 lakh infections by July 31. Currently, the number of infections stands at 32,810, including 984 deaths. However, Sisodia ruled out community transmission in the national capital.
Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain had, however, said earlier on June 9 that in almost 50% of cases in the Capital, the source of infection cannot be detected.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also said that according to a serological survey the ICMR conducted, 0.73% population in 83 districts showed prior exposure to the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Bhargava said that blood samples could be collected from 26,400 people in these districts. The results showed that the lockdown and containment measures have been successful in keeping the prevalence of Covid-19 low, Bhargava said. He added that the infection fatality rate was extremely low, at 0.08%.
But Bhargava also said that the survey also proved that a large percentage of India’s population is still at risk. The risk is also nearly double (1.89 times) in urban slums. The ICMR director general added that another part of the survey, focusing on containment zones is yet to be completed.
The ICMR had on June 9 dismissed media reports based on its survey, that showed that about one-third of the people living in containment zones and hotspots may have already been infected with Covid-19 and may have also recovered. The survey said that around 15% to 30% of the population living in containment zones and hotspots had been exposed to the infection.
‘Wrong to compare India with other countries’: Health secretary
Joint Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said that it is wrong to compare the number of coronavirus cases in India with those countries where the population is much lower. Instead, India’s coronavirus crisis should be compared with countries with similar population, he said. The health ministry said India’s mortality rate per lakh population is very low, at 0.59%, compared to other countries.
Agarwal said that the Centre compiles the countrywide statistics based on the data provided by states. Responding to a question about the discrepancy in deaths reported by the Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Agarwal said that there could be a change in numbers over a few days due to state governments conducting “death audit”.
India reported 9,996 cases of coronavirus and 357 deaths earlier in the day, the highest single-day rise. With this, the tally rose to 2,86,579 cases and the toll from the disease reached 8,102. India is now the fifth most-affected country in the world.
The number of recoveries remained more than the active cases for the second consecutive day. Agarwal said that the recovery rate is now 49.21%. As many as 1,41,028 people have been cured, the health secretary said.