Coronavirus | Cases rising in 15 States; positivity rate at 21%, says ICMR chief

Balram Bhargava says more Rapid Antigen Tests will be conducted from now on.

Updated - May 12, 2021 08:54 am IST

Published - May 12, 2021 12:04 am IST - NEW DELHI

A health worker conducts Rapid Antigen Tests of migrants at the Jalandhar railway station on May 7, 2021 before they board trains to their home States.

A health worker conducts Rapid Antigen Tests of migrants at the Jalandhar railway station on May 7, 2021 before they board trains to their home States.

The national COVID-19 positivity rate stood at 21% and 310 of the 734 districts had reported positivity greater than or equal to the national average, Balram Bhargava, Director-General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said on Tuesday.

At the Health Ministry briefing, Dr. Bhargava said the country now had the RTPCR testing capacity of about 16 lakh a day and Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) capacity of about 17 lakh a day. Stating that a total of 19,45,299 tests were conducted on April 30, the highest ever in the world, he said the 30-crore landmark was achieved by May 7.

Also read | India reports over 3.48 lakh fresh cases, nearly 4,200 deaths on May 11, 2021

Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have shown continued increasing trend in daily new COVID-19 cases. On the other hand, 18 States and Union Territories have recorded continued plateauing or a decrease in cases.

Indicating a change in policy, the ICMR chief said since the infection was spreading fast during the second wave, RT-PCR tests had been rationalised and RAT (Rapid Antigen Testing) increased for early detection, isolation and home care. He said multiple 24x7 RAT booths were to be set up in cities, towns and villages.

Advocating aggressive RAT usage in rural and remote areas, Dr. Bhargava said these tests would be allowed at all the government and private health care facilities. RAT booths would have to be set up in schools, colleges, residents' welfare association offices and other places, in cooperation with local communities. The government would also encourage public-private partnership models.

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Health Ministry spokesperson Lav Agarwal said an early declining trend had been noticed in the past couple of days, with the number of new cases coming down from about 4.14 lakh on May 7 to 4.03 lakh cases on May 9, and from 3.66 lakh to 3.29 lakh in the past 24 hours.

There were about 37 lakh active cases, while over 1.90 crore patients had recovered so far. Close to 2.50 lakh deaths (1.09% of the total cases) had been reported, he said.


Mr. Agarwal said 26 States had more than 15% positivity, nine with over 25% and 10 States with 20-25% positivity. The highest of 49.6% was in Goa, followed by Puducherry with 42.8% and West Bengal with 34.4%. On day-on-day basis, the overall positivity on April 27 was 19% and since then, it had gone down to 18%.

State-wise, the most number of active cases continued to be reported from Maharashtra (5,93,150), followed by Karnataka (5,71,026), Kerala (4,20,076), Uttar Pradesh (2,25,271) and Rajasthan (2,03,017). In 13 States/UTs, there were more than 1 lakh active cases; 50,000 to 1 lakh in six and less than 50,000 in 17.

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Mr. Agarwal said the Centre had provided about 17.01 crore vaccine doses for free to the States and the people had already got them. In collaboration with the States, 25.59 lakh doses were also given to the 18-44 age group.

Sharing updates on oxygen availability, Home Ministry Additional Secretary Piyush Goyal said oxygen production in the country had risen from 5,700 MT per day in August 2020 to more than 9,000 MT per day in May. There had been seven fold increase in the supply of liquid medical oxygen, from 1,320 MT in March to 8,943 MT on May 9.

Several additional measures were being taken to increase oxygen availability, which included supplies from the steel and the small and medium enterprises sector. Jumbo hospitals with 12,400 beds were being set up, with the supply of gaseous oxygen from refineries and power/steel plants, while one lakh oxygen concentrators were being procured under the PM Cares Fund.

In all, 5,805 MT of oxygen was being imported from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, France, Singapore and Bahrain. Oxygen tankers had been increased from 1,040 in March last year to 1,681 with 23,056 MT capacity. The Railway and Air Force were regularly assisting in the expeditious distribution of oxygen.

Cryogenic tanks for oxygen storage in hospitals had been increased from 609 in March 2020 to 901 in May, while oxygen cylinders had increased from 4.35 lakh to 11.19 lakh. Hospitals earlier directly procured oxygen from suppliers. However, following a surge in the cases in April, the Centre decided to develop an allocation process to ensure rational distribution. A virtual central control room was set up for real-time monitoring.

The government was in continued talks with the vaccine manufacturers to augment production capacity, said Mr. Agarwal in response to a query.

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