NEW DELHI: As India registered the highest jump in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 52 patients in various parts of the country testing positive, the government revised its testing criteria allowing pneumonia patients hospitalised across the country to be tested for the infection.
The country now has a total of 252 confirmed infection cases - of which 232 are active cases, 22 have been discharged from hospitals after being declared as having recovered, one person migrated out of India while four have succumbed to the illness.
So far, only those with history of travel from abroad and some symptoms or those who have come into contact with infected people and are symptomatic were being tested.
But in a fresh advisory on Friday to the hospital across the country, the Centre said that every pneumonia case - apart from suspected COVID-19 cases too be reported to the National Centre for Communicable Diseases (NCDC) or the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
“No suspected COVID-19 patient should be turned away from any hospital and the admission of any such patient should be notified to NCDC or IDSP immediately. Similarly, all pneumonia patients must also be notified to NCDC or IDSP so that they can be tested for COVID-19," the advisory to the hospitals said.
However, the government maintained that a 69-year-old Italian, who was among the earliest confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and died in a private hospital on Friday had not succumbed to the illness but died of cardiac arrest after testing negative twice.
"This man was nearly 70, had co-morbidities and was a chain smoker and he died in a private hospital after being discharged following his successful treatment for corona virus infection," said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary (health) in a press briefing . "How can that be called a corona virus death?" he asked.
Government officials also could not elaborate on the case of a man in Tamil Nadu who has tested positive for the infection without any history of international travel or apparent contact with any infected person. The state government had hinted that his could be case of community transmission - a phenomenon that the Centre has been denying.
On being asked about the case, Dr RR Gangakhedkar, chief epidemiologist at the Indian Council of Medical Research under the ministry said: "We don’t know yet. The case is being probed and all his contacts are being probed."
Meanwhile, government sources said that health officials in a video conference meeting with their Chinese counterparts on Friday, exchanged notes on tackling with the outbreak. "We got tips on treatment protocols and outbreak containment and could use them in coming weeks," an official present in the meeting said.
The Centre on Friday also sent a circular to states asking them to expand the universal screening for all passengers coming from Australia, UK and USA and risk profiling them for either quarantine or isolation upon their arrival.
This, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Ministry said, is being done in view of local transmission of infection in the country and high case burden and deaths in these three countries.