New Delhi: India is far away from the peak of COVID-19 spread and its preventive measures have been “very effective”, putting it in a much better position in comparison with other countries, the government said on Tuesday, even as the case count and death toll continued to mount.
Asked about India’s status in the fight against COVID-19 and if certain areas have entered the community transmission phase, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientist Nivedita Gupta at a media briefing said, “Instead of using the word community transmission, it is important to understand the extent of spread of the disease and where do we stand in comparison with other countries.”
ICMR is conducting a sero-survey to assess the extent of spread of COVID-19 and almost 34,000 people are being tested as a part of it, she said, adding that its results will be out in the public domain by the end of this week or early next week.
Asked when the peak in COVID-19 outbreak will arrive, Gupta said, “We are very far away from the peak. Our preventive measures to curtail the disease are very effective and we are better positioned in comparison with other countries. You will get to see the data in a week.”
Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal, at the briefing, said it is wrong to just look at the total number of cases and state that India has the seventh highest number of cases as the population of countries also should be taken into account.
About 14 most affected countries with a cumulative population almost equal to that of India have reported 55.2 times more COVID-19 deaths and 22.5 times more cases, he said.
“Our COVID-19 fatality rate is 2.82 per cent as against 6.13 per cent globally. Our COVID-19 fatality rate is amongst the lowest in the world. We have been able to achieve this due to timely identification of cases and proper clinical management,” Agarwal said.
He also said that India’s COVID-19 case fatality rate per lakh population is 0.41 per cent as against 4.9 per cent globally which is also amongst the lowest in the world. There are countries with a figure as high as 62 (Spain) and 82 (Belgium), he added.
Presenting an age profile analysis of COVID-19 deaths, Agarwal said one in every two COVID-19 deaths in India has been of senior citizens who constitute 10 per cent of the total population.
This ten per cent of India’s population accounts for 50 per cent of India’s COVID-19 linked deaths, while 73 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in the country are of people with comorbidities.
“Our analysis shows that people at high risk from COVID-19 are elderly people and those with comorbidities,” he said, highlighting that it was imperative that high-risk people take required preventive measures and timely action based on medical advice in case they experience COVID-19 symptoms.
He also urged the high risk population to stay at home and adopt various activities like yoga, reading books or developing indoor hobbies among others to utilise their time productively at home and stay fit.
Precautions and laid down do’s and dont’s have to be followed with same vigour and momentum as India is opening up gradually, Agarwal said.
“As India fights coronavirus, it is necessary to keep up the momentum in the fight against COVID-19, let us take a pledge and declare it on social media as well. Use ‘IndiaWillWin’ hashtag to create awareness,” he said.
“As we are in ‘Unlock 1’ situation, the challenge before us is how to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour, be it in terms of travel or office functioning. We have to think in terms of a new normal on how to live with the virus by taking adequate precautions so as to protect ourselves from it,” he said.
The ICMR scientist said 1.20 lakh samples are being tested for COVID-19 on an average per day and at present there are 476 government and 205 private labs testing for the virus.
Responding to a question on whether there is some amount of under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths with several states not testing bodies for the infection, Gupta said there was no under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in India and states were doing causality assessment and attributing cause of death accordingly.
Agarwal also asserted that there is “no under reporting of COVID-19 When asked that the country is approaching 2 lakh cases and if there has been any change in the protocol for contact tracing, Agarwal said the primary focus remains on COVID-19 containment zones, identifying cases and active search for cases.
“With additional cases getting reported the size of zones may need to increase and active search may need to be strengthened depending on the number of cases,” he said.
“After doing this active search, whichever cases including asymptomatic high risk contacts need to be tested as part of the testing criteria and anybody who is found positive should be treated as per protocol,” Agarwal said.
The novel coronavirus death toll rose to 5,598 in India on Tuesday with 204 more fatalities, while 8,171 new cases reported in the last 24 hours took the number of infections to over 1.98 lakh till Tuesday 8 AM, according to the Health Ministry.
The recovery rate has improved from 11.42 per cent on April 15 to 26.59 per cent on May 3 and to 38.29 per cent on May 18, the ministry said.