After months of denial, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday admitted that community transmission of Covid-19 was detected in parts of the country, but claimed this was limited to “certain districts occurring in a limited number of states”.

During the community transmission stage of a pandemic, new cases cannot be traced to any source of infection. This indicates that the infection is well-established in the community.

On being asked to comment on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s admission that community transmission has started in some areas of the state, Vardhan during his weekly interaction “Sunday Samvaad”, admitted that some level of community spread has occurred there as well as in other states.

“In different pockets across various states, including West Bengal, community transmission is expected to occur, especially in dense areas,” the health minister said. “However, this is not happening across the country. It is limited to certain districts occurring in limited states.”

The government has repeatedly maintained there is no community transmission in India, despite more than a 74 lakh confirmed Covid-19 cases, the second highest in the world behind only the United States. The Centre had last reiterated its stand on July 9 during a press conference on the pandemic.

However, many public health experts have questioned the legitimacy of this stance.

In June, Kerala confirmed there was community transmission in the state. In July, West Bengal too confirmed that community transmission had occured in some areas.

Any other political leader or organisation that had admitted or hinted at community transmission had later on changed or retracted their statement. For instance, the Indian Medical Association said in July that it was time for the government to acknowledge community spread, but later distanced itself from the stand.

‘No major mutation’

During Sunday’s session, Vardhan said that there has been no major mutation of the Covid-19 virus has been detected in India so far, adding that the Indian Council of Medical Research has been studying the matter in detail.

Vardhan also said that presently there are no nasal spray vaccines for Covid-19 available in the country. “However, the Serum Institute of India in Pune is working on a vaccine for coronavirus and is expected to begin clinical trials by end of this year,” he said.

Vardhan refuted China’s claim of simultaneous outbreak of the virus in other parts of the world, and said that there was no clinching evidence available to validate it.

Ahead of the festive season, the minister urged people to be mindful of their roles in fighting the virus. Citing the example of Kerala, he said that the state’s negligence during Onam led to a sudden increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. “The state is paying the price of its gross negligence,” he said. “There were huge congregations during Onam and adequate safety measures were not taken.”

Kerala has witnessed a sharp spike recently, with the total number of cases breaching the three lakh-mark on October 13. On Saturday, 9,016 new cases of infection were reported from the state.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the total number of cases in India rose to 74,94,551 with 61,871 new cases being reported in the past 24 hours. The country’s death toll rose by 1,033 to 1,14,031.