Coronavirus spread: Death toll crosses 200 in India, govt expands testing

The death toll in India because of coronavirus disease was 206, nearly half of which have been reported in Maharashtra, with total positive cases reaching 6,761 till Friday, according to health ministry data.

In the 24 hours ending Friday, 38 new deaths were reported and 896 new cases came to light, even as the country entered the third week of the nationwide lockdown.

Maharashtra has recorded the highest number of patients at 1,364, followed by Delhi at 898. Maharashtra had also recorded the highest number of deaths at 97, with Mumbai alone accounting for 54 deaths, according to state government data.

The government revised its testing strategy on Thursday, and expanded it to any person showing symptoms of cold, cough or fever in hotspots. Of the 16,000 tested conducted over the 24 hours, 0.2 per cent cases were found to be positive.

According to an analysis provided by the health ministry last week, the gender-wise breakup of those infected shows that it is largely males who have caught the infection, with 76 per cent of patients being male. Among those who succumbed, 73 per cent were male.

The government denied that the country was in the community transmission stage. “If such a situation arises, we will be the first to come and tell you about it so we can be more alert,” Lav Agarwal, joint secretary at the health ministry, told reporters.

For cases where the confirmed patient does not have any travel history or link to an infected person, Agarwal said, “It requires further investigation. There is no community transmission yet.”  The government is also issuing guidelines to blood banks to facilitate transfusion with safety.

ICMR study

According to a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 40 people out of a total of 104 coronavirus patients with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) were found to have contracted the infection without having any recent international travel history or contact with any confirmed cases of the disease. The study was based on findings after carrying out random tests on 5,911 people suffering from SARI in 52 districts in 20 states and Union Territories between February 15 and April 2.

Of the sample size, 104 people (1.8 per cent) were found to have contracted Covid-19. Of the 104, 40 did not have any recent international travel history or contact with any positive case, the study by the nodal medical research body said.

Community transmission

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Friday there were indications that the state was moving towards the community transmission stage, but asserted his government was gearing up for every challenge, and announced mass testing in Covid-19 hotspots from next week. Speaking to the media through video conference, Singh quoted a PGIMER study to say that the virus infection is likely to touch its peak by mid-September and may likely affect 58 per cent of the country’s population.

The PGIMER, however, later clarified that it was “not aware that any expert or faculty member from the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health of the Institute has carried out any study or estimate that Covid-19 may peak by mid-September and can infect 58 per cent of country’s population”.

A Punjab CMO official later said the report cited by Singh was an assessment of Dr Shankar Prinja, the Additional Professor of Health Economics, the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER, and his team, using standard mathematical models with Punjab data provided to him.

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