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Coronavirus | Herd immunity cannot be a strategic option for India: Health Ministry

People fail to maintain social distancing as they throng to buy flowers at the wholesale market in Badrian Street in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on July 30, 2020.

People fail to maintain social distancing as they throng to buy flowers at the wholesale market in Badrian Street in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on July 30, 2020.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

In a densely populated country like India, herd immunity cannot be a strategic option because this will come at a very high cost in terms of human lives lost and will cripple the health care system, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday.

“Herd immunity can only be achieved through immunisation and till then COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is the only way forward,” said Rajesh Bhushan, Officer on Special Duty, Health Ministry, at a press conference.

 

With 786 deaths registered on Thursday, India’s death toll reached 35,800. Maharashtra (266 deaths), Tamil Nadu (100), Karnataka (83), Andhra Pradesh (68) and Uttar Pradesh (57) contributed to the bulk of the fatalities.

India now has the fifth-highest death toll in the world, surpassing Italy with 35,132 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The seven-day rolling average for deaths in India is now 735, next only to the U.S. (1,075) and Brazil (1,052).

The case fatality rate in the country is now 2.18%, which is “among the lowest in the world... 24 States and Union Territories have a lesser fatality rate than that of the country,” according to Mr. Bhushan.

As many as 54,660 confirmed cases were registered across the country, marking yet another high in daily cases (data from Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh were not available when this report went to press). The seven-day rolling average for cases also crossed the 50,000 mark. The total confirmed cases went up to 16,38,951 with a 64.58% recovery rate (10,58,464 people have recovered while 5,44,687 people are actively infected).

 

“16 States have a recovery rate more than the national average,” Mr. Bhushan said.

Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh registered 11,147 and 10,167 cases each, both daily highs. The latter had also tested 70,068 samples on July 29, among the highest in States. Karnataka with 6,128 cases and Uttar Pradesh (3,705) also had daily highs, while Tamil Nadu’s daily case load dropped marginally from its seven-day average to 5,864.

To a question on vaccine development and how the government plans to make this available to the general public, he said, the world over, there were three vaccine candidates which were currently in phase III clinical trials.

Coronavirus | Herd immunity cannot be a strategic option for India: Health Ministry
 

“These three vaccines are being developed by the U.S., the U.K. and China. In India, two indigenously developed vaccine candidates are in phase I and II clinical trials. The first is being tested on 11,050 subjects at eight sites, and the second on 1,000 subjects at five sites. India has not signed any agreement with any vaccine manufacturing company so far but we are in discussions on vaccine distribution and the Ministry is in talks with stakeholders,” the official said. He added that there were multiple stakeholders within and outside the government and the Ministry of Health has started actively engaging with them. 

He added that there were multiple stakeholders within and outside the government and the Ministry of Health had started actively engaging with such stakeholders.

“There has been discussion on prioritising how a vaccine would be distributed or administered if and when it becomes available. A COVID vaccine, whenever it comes, will have to be administered on a much larger scale compared to the existing vaccines. This is something on which there is near unanimity,” he noted.

Ayodhya safegaurds

Responding to a question on the proposed religious gathering at Ayodhya at a time when there was a ban on religious gatherings, Joint Secretary in the Minsitry Lav Agarwal noted that “SOPs issued for social gatherings during Unlock 2.0 would be applicable for the event”.

 

Mr. Bhushan said so far the Central government has received 131 claims under the ₹50 lakh insurance scheme that the Central government announced in March for COVID-19 healthcare workers. “Among them 20 have been cleared; in 64 cases the payments is being processed while 47 claims are still being looked into by various State governments. Maximum claims have come in from Maharashtra, Delhi and Telangana,” he said.

The Health Ministry added that so far 1,81,90,000 tests for COVID had been conducted, including RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests.

“There has been a week-on-week increase in average tests per day. India is conducting 324 test per 10 lakhs population per day,” said Mr. Bhushan.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 9:26:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-india-now-has-fifth-highest-covid-19-fatalities-in-the-world/article32232017.ece

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