NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry on Monday said the rate at which the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was doubling in the last one week improved to 7.5 days, as against 3.4 days before the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal provided the latest data at the daily media briefing citing the rate of doubling of infection across the country.
He, however, provided the data of only 18 states and UTs.
The rated of doubling of infection as provided by him were between 8.5 and 72.2 days. It could not be immediately known which states had registered the doubling time of 7.5 or less.
Giving details of state-wise doubling time of infection, he said as per data on April 19, 18 states and UTs have shown an improvement over the national average doubling rate.
Addressing reporters, Agarwal said the states and UTs where the doubling rate is less than 20 days are Delhi with 8.5 days, Karnataka 9.2 days, Telangana 9.4 days, Andhra Pradesh 10.6 days, Jammu and Kashmir 11.5 days, Punjab 13.1 days, Chhattisgarh 13.3 days, Tamil Nadu 14 days and Bihar 16.4 days.
Places where the doubling time is between 20 days to 30 days include Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 20.1 days.
In Haryana, the cases are doubling in 21 days, in Himachal Pradesh 24.5 days, Chandigarh 25.4 days, Assam 25.8 days, Uttarakhand 26.6 days and Ladakh 26.6 days.
States with doubling time more than 30 days are Odisha and Kerala which reported time of 39.8 and 72.2 days respectively, Agarwal said.
He said a total of 1,553 cases and 36 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in the country to 17,265 and death toll to 543 so far.
Also 2,546 people have been cured and overall 14.75 per cent people have recovered in the country, he said.
On the field level actions yielding positive results, the official said apart from Mahe in Puducherry and Kodagu in Karnataka, Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand too has not reported any fresh case during last 28 days.
There are 59 districts in 23 states and UTs where no case has been reported in the last 14 days, he said.
Six new districts that have been added to the list are Dungarpur and Pali in Rajasthan, Jamnagar and Morbi in Gujarat, North Goa in Goa and Gomati in Tripura.
Agarwal also said that in some good news, all the patients in Goa have been discharged and there are no active cases in the state.
"While relaxation has been provided in some states since today, we urge you to follow social distancing norms, so that COVID-19 cases decrease further and zero case status is maintained in green zones.
"As compared to other nations, whatever relative success India has achieved in managing the crisis is because of the collective efforts of the government and the people," Agarwal said.
He also expressed concern over the news of some journalists in Mumbai testing positive for the virus and said that when they attend the call of duty, they should take the required precautions.
"Whoever needs to be tested as per sampling criteria will be tested," the official said.
On a question over rapid antibody tests coming under scanner over quality issues, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Raman R Gangakhedkar said that worldwide rapid tests are not used for individual diagnosis.
"The rapid antibody test is not used for individual diagnosis, as we don't know how powerful the antibody developed will be against the virus.
It can be used for surveillance. And consistent errors will not affect assessment of infection trends in epidemiological surveys," he said.
Over some states raising concerns over the quality of the kits, he said rapid antibody tests are CE-IVD approved and quality tests were already done to check their sensitivity and specificity as claimed and they were found to be satisfactory.
Over complaints from West Bengal on repeat testing of patients claiming the RT-PCR kits are not working properly, Gangakhedkar said they are US FDA approved and have good quality standards.
"The only thing one has to keep in mind is that they need to be kept below 20 degrees Celsius. If temperature is higher, proper test results are not obtained.
The complaint about repeat testings may have arisen since technician may have kept the kits and tried the test at room temperature.
"We have told the WB government that the kit we use NIV is sufficient for 10,000 tests and it is available in NICED Kolkata and we can give it to them to deal with the crisis," Gangakhedkar said.
The ICMR scientist said out of 100 infected people 80 do not show any symptoms and if tested they might be positive.
Agarwal added that 80 per cent of thepatients are asymptomatic or will have mild symptoms, around 15 per cent patients may turn into severe cases and patients turn critical.
A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture said that the FCI has moved double the average quantity of food grains during the lockdown period and that face masks and hand sanitizers have been brought under Essential Commodities Act.
She also said that NGOs have been permitted to buy food grains directly from FCI for relief operations.
"Sown area of summer crops has registered 36 per cent increase over last year; farming has been exempted from lockdown but social distancing has to be maintained," the official said.
She also said that the government has hiked MNREGA wages and the the average increase is Rs 20.