Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said that his ministry is closely reviewing every emerging aspect of the coronavirus situation in India when asked about reinfection cases. The Union health minister made the remarks while replying to a question from a journalist during a weekly online interaction called “Sunday Samvad”.
“There are some cases of Covid-19 reinfection being reported from across the world, not just India,” Vardhan said. “At the moment the subject is still under investigation and does not appear to be a serious issue. However, in the ministry of health, each and every aspect of Covid-19 that is emerging, is being actively studied and researched...These reports of reinfection are also being sufficiently examined.”
Vardhan said an expert panel under the Indian Council of Medical Research was analysing the cases of reinfection. He added that the number of reinfection cases are currently negligible, but the Centre is “fully seized of the importance of the matter”.
The Union health minister also said that the ICMR’s second serological survey showed that Indians were far from achieving herd immunity against Covid-19. “Even the soon to be released second sero-survey indications are that we are far from having achieved any kind of herd immunity which necessitates that all of us should continue following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour,” he added, according to PTI.
The first ICMR sero survey, conducted between May 11 and June 4 in 21 states, suggested that 0.73% adults in India were exposed to the infection.
Serology tests “look for antibodies in blood”, according to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “If antibodies are found, that means there has been a previous infection,” it says. “However, there is a chance a positive result means that you have antibodies from an infection with a virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses), such as the one that causes the common cold.”
Serological surveys show the number of people that may have been infected with the coronavirus in an area. However, they do not show how many are immune to the virus. It is still unclear how long antibodies last in infected persons and how many antibodies are required to protect a person from reinfection.
In reply to another query, Vardhan said that the central government has been aware of the emerging studies that Covid-19 may also affect other organs, including the heart. “We are well aware that there is recent emerging evidence that Covid-19 may not be just an acute respiratory disease,” he said, according to Hindustan Times. “It not only impacts our lungs, but also cardiovascular and renal systems.”
The health minister said the studies are useful as they draw attention to the non-respiratory effects of the disease, but added that most of them are done on a small scale with a smaller sample size. “Therefore, any generalisation of the results from these studies, especially in the context of our population, may be inaccurate,” he added. “Anyway, the issue could always escalate and become serious. Therefore, we have an expert committee to look into these facets of Covid-19. We have urged our institutions like ICMR to actively study these issues.”
State governments and private hospitals have been discouraged from using the drug remdesivir or plasma therapy regularly, Vardhan said.
India’s coronavirus tally inched closer to the 60-lakh mark after 88,600 new infections were reported on Sunday. The country now has total 59,92,532 cases. The toll rose by 1,124 to 94,503. The mortality rate stood at 1.61%, while the recovery rate is at 82.1%.