Across the country, 274 districts have reported positive cases so far. The total number of cases in the country currently stands at 3,577.
WHILE THERE has been a sharp spike in the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths over the past week, 62 districts account for over 80 per cent of the cases so far. Top government sources said restrictions are likely to continue in these districts even after the nationwide 21-day lockdown ends on April 14.
Across the country, 274 districts have reported positive cases so far. The total number of cases in the country currently stands at 3,577 (274 cured, 83 deaths); on March 30, the tally was 1,251 cases, 32 deaths. “There is a clear geographical skew in the spread; 62 districts are currently reporting over 80 per cent cases and these will be the focus for aggressive containment strategy in the Bhilwara model. We are also stepping up testing. In the last two days the tests were doubled, in the next few days we will again double,” said a source.
The containment zones, or areas reporting large number of cases, in these 62 districts will be sealed off in what is unofficially being referred to in the government as the “Bhilwara model”. Meanwhile, amid reports and studies which raise the possibility of the virus being airborne, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said there was no credible evidence in this regard.
“If this was an airborne infection, not droplet infection, every person in a family would be infected; the same would apply for other patients in a hospital. But we have not seen any evidence of that happening so far. There have been one million cases the world over, and no such instance has been found. I think we should trust that evidence,” said Dr R R Gangakhedkar, head of epidemiology and infectious diseases, ICMR.
The number of daily tests has almost doubled in the last two days, from 5,800 on April 2 to 10,034 on April 4. Sources said efforts are on to “double again in the next few days”. One of the strongest criticisms of India’s COVID-19 management strategy has been that not enough tests are being done. A total of 79,950 samples had been tested till April 4.
On Saturday, the ICMR issued an advisory for the use of rapid antibody tests in some areas. The results of these tests have to be informed immediately to the ICMR. In a letter to Health Secretary Preeti Sudan, Dr Balram Bhargava, Secretary, Health Research, wrote: “Overall testing for COVID-19 using real-time RT PCR is increasing and we will be approaching full capacity in near future. At the same time, we are expecting delivery of Rapid Test kits (blood based) for use in response to COVID-19 situation. ln this regard, National Task Force deliberated with experts for ascertaining use of these rapid test kits.”
In a video conference with district magistrates across the country, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba emphasised the level of preparedness “to the level of being overprepared”, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said at the daily briefing.
Gauba directed all DMs to ensure smooth operations of the pharma units for manufacturing medicines and medical equipment. All districts have been advised to draw up a COVID-19 crisis management plan. India is also pressing into service CBNAAT (cartridge based nucleic acid amplification test) machines for COVID-19 tests.
Agarwal said the personal protective equipment (PPE) situation has improved after some “initial shortages” as they were being imported. “However, now domestic manufacturers have started production and we are procuring more of them. We have sent all the initial stocks to the states on the basis of the case load but have asked states and DMs to rationalise their use,” he said.