COVID-19 still limited in spread, current testing rate six times higher than WHO recommendation: Centre

Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said the current phase of the pandemic in India is on multiple trajectories across urban and semi-urban areas of the country.

Published: 23rd September 2020 08:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd September 2020 08:07 PM   |  A+A-

A health worker takes swab sample to test for COVID-19 outside a residential building in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (Photo | AP)


NEW DELHI: India has reported large outbreaks of COVID-19 in certain districts and only 10 states are currently contributing to 75 per cent of the active cases in the country, which suggests that coronavirus is still limited in its spread, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

In a written reply to a query in Lok Sabha on whether there is community transmission of COVID-19 in the country, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said the current phase of the pandemic in India is on multiple trajectories across urban and semi-urban areas of the country.

The epidemic curve of any pandemic goes through an ascending, peaking and descending phase, he said.

"India has reported large outbreaks in certain districts indicating the spread of infection in those districts. Only 10 states are currently contributing to 75 per cent of active cases in the country, which suggests that COVID is still limited in spread," the minister said.

India has one of the lowest cases and deaths per million population among similarly affected countries.

This is further corroborated by the fact that the nationwide sero-prevalence for COVID-19 conducted in May 2020, was found to be less than 1 per cent, Choubey said.

The top 10 states with most active cases as on September 20 are Maharashtra 2,97,866 (29.47 per cent), Karnataka 98,583 (9.75 pc), Andhra Pradesh 81,763 (8.09 pc), Uttar Pradesh 66,874 ( 6.62pc), Tamil Nadu 46,453 (4.60 pc), Kerala 37,535 (3.71pc), Chhattisgarh 37,489 (3.71 pc), Odisha 33,202 (3.28 pc, Delhi 32,064 (3.17 pc) and Telangana 30,573 (3.02 pc), the minister said.

The Government of India has adopted a containment strategy for containing the spread of COVID-19 by suppressing and breaking the cycle of transmission in the country, Choubey said.

Elaborating on that, he said containment plans envisage a strategy of breaking the chain of transmission by defining containment and buffer zones, applying strict perimeter control, intensive active house-to-house search for cases and contacts, isolation and testing of suspected cases and high-risk contacts and quarantine of high-risk contacts among others.

In all public health institutions under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, COVID-19 tests such as RT-PCR, Truenat, CBNAAT and rapid-antigen are done free of cost.

the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has also provided COVID-19 testing reagents to all states and union territories free of cost.

"As health is a state subject, the Ministry of Health has also written to all states/UTs to negotiate with private laboratories and fix up mutually agreeable prices for samples being sent by the government and also for private individuals desirous of testing by these laboratories," the minister underlined.

India's current testing rate six times the WHO recommendation: Government

India is conducting COVID-19 tests at a rate of 875 per million population per day, which is more than six times the figure recommended by the WHO, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended testing of 0.14 samples per day per 1,000 population or 140 tests per day per million population, Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.

In response to another question, Choubey said that average test conducted by a district in a day is 1,053.

"Presently, the rate of COVID-19 test conducted per 1,000 persons in India is 0.875 test per day (as on September 19)," he said in response to a question on whether the rate of tests is commensurate with testing levels in countries with similar number of active COVID-19 cases.

On whether the government is tracking the testing numbers at the district level, the minister said that tests conducted for detection of COVID-19 are being reported to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) data portal by laboratories, including the details of district where the sample was collected and tested.

Indian manufacturers can produce 3.48-crores RT-PCR combo kits per month

Indian manufacturers can produce around 3.48 crore RT-PCR combo kits per month, which gives the country a capacity to conduct around 11.35 lakh RT-PCR COVID-19 tests daily, the government said on Wednesday.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has granted manufacturing licenses for RT-PCR kits to 30 companies and import licenses to 119 firms, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in a written reply.

Quoting an ICMR survey, he said Indian manufacturers can manufacture around 348.1 lakh RT-PCR test kits per month.

"During March to June 2020, around 60 per cent of RT-PCR kits procured were from foreign manufacturers and the remaining 40 per cent were from Indian manufacturers.

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"However, currently, 100 per cent procurement of RT-PCR combo kits is from Indian manufacturers, whereas the COBAS, CBNAAT etc kits are still being imported," he said.

The minister was responding to a question on the percentage of kits that are being manufactured indigenously and imported.

In response to another question, Choubey said the ICMR has informed that based on the current manufacturing capacity of Indian manufacturer, around 11.35 lakh RT-PCR combo tests can be conducted per day.

The 30 companies which have been granted manufacturing licenses for COVID-19 RT-PCR kits by the CDSCO include Mylab, Molbio Diag.Pvt Ltd, Kilpest India Ltd, Cosara Diagnostics Pvt.Ltd, Huwel Lifesciences Pvt Ltd, Ubio Biotechnology System Pvt Ltd, Affigenix Biosolutions Pvt Ltd, Biosystems Diag.Pvt Ltd, Tata Medical and Diagnostic Ltd and Athenes Dx Pvt Ltd.

Pandemics caused by new virus infect humans in multiple waves: Government

Pandemics caused by a new virus have the propensity to infect human population in multiple waves and some countries which initially successfully contained the COVID-19 outbreak are now reporting a resurgence of cases, the Lok Sabha was told on Wednesday.

Government of India has accordingly advised states to upgrade health infrastructure based on the case growth trajectory in respective states and districts, besides taking stringent containment measures, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in a written reply.

He was responding to a question on whether the government has anticipated and is ready for the second wave of COVID-19 during the winter months in India.

"Pandemics caused by a new virus have the propensity to infect human population in multiple waves, each time affecting a cohort of susceptible population.

"Some countries, which had initially successfully contained the COVID-19 outbreak earlier are now reporting a resurgence of cases," the minister said in his reply.

Giving details of the steps taken by the government to provide funds and medical equipment for COVID-19 care management, Choubey said states and UTs are being provided required technical and financial assistance to manage the public health challenge.

With public health and hospitals being a state subject, the primary responsibility of strengthening the healthcare system lies with respective state governments, the minister said.

All the states and UTs are provided with necessary financial support under India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package.

During FY 2020-21, Rs 4256.81 crore in funds were released to states and UTs.

In addition, states are being supported in terms of supply of logistics.

So far 1.42, crore PPE kits, 3.45 crore N-95 masks, 10.84 crore tablets of hydroxychloroquine, 30,841 ventilators and 1,02,400 oxygen cylinders have been supplied to states, UTs and central government hospitals (as reported on September, 20), the minister said.

For appropriate management of COVID-19 cases, Government of India has advised state governments to set up three-tier arrangement of health facilities exclusively for COVID-19.

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These are COVID Care Centres with isolation beds for mild or pre-symptomatic cases; Dedicated COVID Health Centre (DCHC) with oxygen-supported isolation beds for moderate cases and Dedicated COVID Hospitals (DCH) with ICU beds for severe cases.

DCHCs or DCHs may be full hospitals or a separate block in a hospital with preferably separate entry/exit/zoning.

In addition, the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has set up large dedicated COVID-19 field hospitals with capacity ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 isolation beds, the minister said.

These temporary hospitals have been set up in Delhi, Bihar (Patna and Muzaffarpur).

All states, including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, have accordingly taken action to create such infrastructure,  Choubey said on whether the Union government has any plans to start exclusive COVID-19 treatment and care blocks in states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu where a large number of people got infected.

Hospital infrastructure in the country for managing coronavirus cases is being continuously monitored by Government of India.

States have been advised to prepare for requisite surge capacities to manage cases in accordance with existing and projected growth rates, he said.


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