Covid-19: 26 Navy sailors test positive; no cases on combat ships

Medics wearing protective suits take out the mortal remains of a COVID-19 patient to cremate at Nigam Bodh Ghat during a nationwide lockdown, in New Delhi. PTI
Twenty-six Indian Navy personnel have tested positive for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at the Western Naval Command in Mumbai, in the first case of a major outbreak of the deadly infection in the armed forces, as the confirmed cases in the country neared the 15,000-mark on Saturday.

All the infected sailors were staying at a bachelors’ residential block at the INS Angre, a shore-based logistics and support establishment, just a few hundred metres away from the main Naval dockyard housing a range of frontline warships and submarines of the force.

“There has so far not been a single case of Covid-19 onboard any ship, submarine or air station of the Indian Navy… The Navy remains combat-ready, mission-capable and is in full readiness to partake in the national mission to fight the pandemic as well as to provide support to our friendly neighbours,” the Navy said in a statement.

As of Saturday, 14,792 Covid-19 cases were reported in the country. These included 488 deaths, according to the health ministry data.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, was conducting a study on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a therapeutic and prophylactic drug on Covid-19, even as it awaited the results of another trial of the American drug remdesivir.

While a vaccine looks like a distant goal, India is monitoring the effects of HCQ on patients and healthcare workers. “The HCQ study is an observational and covert one... since we cannot have an evidence base for a trial right now,” said Raman R Gangakhedkar, head scientist, ICMR.

Around 480 patients will be observed for a period of eight weeks to understand the effect of HCQ. A group of health workers, who also took the medicine as a precautionary measure, is also being monitored as part of another study to find out the side effects of the drug.

India had banned the exports of HCQ, a malaria drug, but later agreed to supply it to the US on President Donald Trump’s demand and some other countries.

The most common side effect of the drug was abdominal pain reported by 10 per cent of the health workers and nausea among 6 per cent. US based biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences is testing its drug remdesivir, which affects the reproduction rate of the virus on 5,500 patients.

“If the drug is found to be effective, then in a pandemic situation it will have to go into patent pooling in which they can be paid royalty for generic manufacturing. India is part of this solidarity trial,” Gangakhedkar said.

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