Covid-19: India does not have community transmission, says ICMR chief

The first part of the survey was conducted in 83 districts across 28,595 households collecting samples of 26,400 people Photo: PTI
India’s first serological survey to find the presence of Covid-19 antibodies in people has shown prevalence of infection among 0.73 per cent of individuals tested, with slums facing a much higher risk of spread, the Indian Council of Medical Research said. 

While sharing the findings of the first part of the survey conducted in May, ICMR chief Balram Bhargava said the infection in containment zones was found to be high with significant variations. The second part of the survey to study the spread of the disease in the containment zones in the hotspot districts was still ongoing, he said. 

Lockdown has been successful in keeping the transmission low and preventing rapid spread… Large proportion of the population is still susceptible,” Bhargava added. 

The ICMR chief, while denying that there is community transmission, said: “Even the World Health Organization has not defined community transmission...India is such a large country and the prevalence is less than 1 per cent in small districts...it may be slightly higher in urban sector and containment areas...India is certainly not in community transmission,” Bhargava said.  However, to study the spread of the disease, multiple sero surveys will be conducted in states and the Elisa test kit for antibody detection will be made available to states, ICMR chief said.

The first part of the survey was conducted in 83 districts across 28,595 households collecting samples of 26,400 people. The districts were divided into four categories depending on the level of spread of the disease — zero, low, medium, and high incidence. The survey showed that the infection fatality rate was 0.08 per cent and that the risk was 1.09 times higher in urban areas and 1.89 times higher than rural areas in slums.  “That the survey has found less than 1 per cent infected is a big achievement... However, this fight will go on for months,” said V K Paul, a member of NITI Aayog and chairman of empowered group 1. 

Conducted in the third week of May, the survey presents the situation around April-end, since the Covid-19 antibodies take around two weeks to appear in the body.  The survey involves collection of blood samples from a group of people to check them for antibodies. If the test is positive, it shows that the person has been infected in the past. 

The first survey was conducted in collaboration with the states, national centre for disease control, and WHO.  The total number of Covid-19 cases in India reached 286,579 on Thursday, registering the highest single-day spike of 9,996 cases and also the largest increase in daily number of deaths with 357 fatalities taking the total toll to 8,102.



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