Coronavirus outbreak: 12 deaths in 24 hours, positive cases cross 2,000

Onion vendors wait for buyers at Azadpur market in New Delhi on Thursday Photo: PTI
The tally of those infected by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India rose to 2,069, and the death toll rose by 12 to 53, the highest single-day increase so far in the country.

The number of those infected by Covid-19 had taken 12 days to rise from 100 to 1,000, but less than a week to breach the 2,000 mark. This fact, coupled with the health ministry’s disclosure that it had identified 20 existing and 22 potential hotspots of Covid-19 indicated a deepening of the crisis.

Hotspots are areas with higher number of cases or limited cases located in a densely populated area. So far, the ministry had been evasive in putting a number to it, but health ministry advisory on human resource management of Covid-19 to provide guidance to states released on Thursday revealed the number.

In the evening, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released an interim advisory for the use of rapid antibody tests in those hotspots. “Populations in hotspot areas may be tested using rapid antibody test, and antibody positives to be confirmed by RT-PCR using throat/nasal swab (and) antibody negatives to be quarantined at home,” said the ICMR advisory.

Though the ministry advisory cited above asserted that there was still no evidence of widespread community transmission, its own disclosure on quarantining 9,000 people with participation, contact or transit-related linkages to cases emerging from a religious congregation held in Nizamuddin in the national capital hinted at a potentially large rise in numbers in the coming days.

Another alarming development was that one of the 12 persons who were reported to have died on the day hailed from Mumbai’s Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. The health ministry said around 4,000 health workers were involved in tracing and testing cases in and around the place from where the death was reported.

Authorities in Mumbai, which has emerged as a major hub of cases and has also identified some containment areas, also came up with some additional measures to limit the spread. Key among these were central monitoring using over 200 CCTV cameras, using video analytics to map “crowding and loitering”.

Among the other states, Tamil Nadu showed a major spike in numbers, while Andhra Pradesh government decided to take over private hospitals amid rising cases to make their resources available for “emergency response, rescue and relief”.

Medical professionals

A health ministry official said that around 50 medical staff (including doctors, nurses and paramedics) across the country had tested positive for Covid-19 so far. The ministry announced on Thursday that it had placed an order for 15 million personal protective equipment (PPE) and over 10 million N-95 masks.

The development came even as concerns over safety and security led to panic among doctors — at Delhi’s Bara Hindu Rao Hospital, doctors and nurses tendered their resignations over the lack of PPEs. An incident where health workers were attacked during a site visit added to the fears.

Tamil Nadu also announced some measures like a 30 per cent subsidy on the manufacturing of rugs and PPEs, no prior clearance and a 6 per cent interest subvention.

To improve surveillance of cases, the government launched the Aarogya Setu app that will use a smartphone’s GPS system and Bluetooth and provide information that will help the user in ascertaining if she has been near a Covid-19 infected person or not.


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