India is definitely not in the community transmission stage of COVID-19 spread, the government asserted on Thursday, even as cases and deaths continued to mount with the country recording the highest single-day spike of 9,996 new infections and 357 fatalities.
India’s first sero-survey on COVID-19 spread has found that lockdown and containment measures were successful in preventing a rapid rise in infections, but a large proportion of the population still remains susceptible, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Balram Bhargava said at a media briefing.
The serosurvey has two parts – estimating the fraction of the population that has been infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the general population and estimating the fraction of the population that has been infected with the coronavirus in containment zones of hotspot cities, Bhargava said.
The first part has been completed and the second is ongoing, he said, adding that the survey was conducted in May by the ICMR in collaboration with state health departments, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Bhargava said the study involves surveying a total of 83 districts with 26,400 people enrolling for it and 28,595 households visited.
The slides that were shared with the media stated that data from 65 districts has been compiled till now and the data is based on incidence of reported COVID-19 cases as on April 25.
The sero-survey has found that 0.73 per cent of the population in the districts surveyed had evidence of past exposure to SARS-CoV-2 , Bhargava said.
“Lockdown and containment (measures) have been successful in keeping it low and preventing rapid spread,” he said, citing the survey.
However, it means that a large proportion of the population is still susceptible and risk is higher in urban areas (1.09 times) and urban slums (1.89 times) than rural areas, Bhargava said
It found that infection fatality rate is very low at 0.08 per cent and infection in containment zones were found to be high with significant variations, but the survey is still ongoing, he said.
Since, a large proportion of the population is susceptible and infection can spread, non-pharmacological interventions such as physical distancing, use of face mask or cover, hand hygiene, cough etiquette must be followed strictly, Bhargava said.
Urban slums are highly vulnerable for the spread of the infection and local lockdown measures need to continue as already advised by the government, he said.
The elderly, those with chronic morbidities, pregnant women and children less than 10 years of age need to be protected as they fall in the high-risk category susceptible to COVID-19, he said.
“Efforts to limit the scale and spread of the disease will have to be continued by strong implementation of containment strategies by states. The states cannot lower their guard and need to keep on implementing effective surveillance and containment strategies,” Bhargava said.
Asked if India is in the community transmission phase, Bhargava said, “There is a heightened debate around this term community transmission. Having said that I think even WHO has not given a definition for it. And as we have so shown that India is such a large country and the prevalence is so low.”
“The prevalence has been found to be less than 1 per cent in small districts. In urban and containment areas it may be slightly higher. But, India is definitely not in community transmission. I would like to emphasise it,” he said.
India has to continue with its strategy of testing, tracing, tracking and quarantine and continue with containment measures as success has been found up till now with those measures, and we should not let down our guards .
His remarks came on a day India saw the highest single-day spike of 357 fatalities and 9,996 cases, pushing the death toll to 8,102 and the nationwide tally to 2,86,579. According to Union Health Ministry data, the country has registered over 9,500 cases for the seventh day in a row, while the figure for casualties crossed the 300-mark for the first time.
The number of recoveries are more than the active novel coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day.
The ministry said the number of active cases stands at 1,37,448 till Thursday 8 am, while 1,41,028 people have recovered and one patient has migrated.
“Thus, around 49.21 percent of patients have recovered so far,” an official said.
Responding to a question, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said, “Symptomatic person or a suspect case should get in touch with states’ helpline numbers and try to access the hospital facilities as advised. In addition to this, we have requested the States to streamline the helpline system and provide guidance.”