With no current evidence suggesting that Coronavirus is showing any signs of mutation as per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Union Health Ministry on Friday said the doubling rate of positive cases was now down to 6.2 days, compared to 3 before the nationwide lockdown that began on March 25.
India on Friday reported 1,076 new COVID-19 cases and 32 deaths, taking the total number of cases to 13,835 and 452 deaths. As many as 1749 persons have been cured/discharged after recovery. The active cases now are 11,616.
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Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said at a press conference on Friday, “Before the lockdown, the doubling rate was about 3 days, but according to data in the past seven days, it now stands at 6.2 days. Also, India has registered an average growth factor of 1.2 % since April 1, compared to 2.1 in the two weeks preceding that [March 15 to March 31) which is about a 40% decline in the growth factor,” he said. Nineteen States/UTs (Kerala, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Ladakh, Himachal, Chandigarh, Puducherry, Bihar, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, UP, Karnataka, J&K, Punjab, Assam, Tripura) have shown a lower rate of increase of cases to some extent.
Mr. Agarwal said the recovery rate (number of people discharged) too had improved, standing now at nearly 13 %, while the ratio between the recovered positive cases and the fatality was at 80:20, which was much higher than several other countries.
RT-PCR kits manufacture
Indigenous manufacture of RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) kits had started and 10 lakh units a month would be produced from May. “Rapid antibody detection kits’ manufacture, with a capacity of 10 lakh kits a month, will also be started. Five lakh kits are distributed to districts on the basis of high case burden. The present ventilator manufacturing capacity is 6,000 a month. Necessary efforts in areas of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines are being monitored on a war footing,’’ he said.
The Ministry had shared forecasting tools with States/district administrators for better planning of infrastructure across different COVID facilities based on the assessment of caseloads. Cumulatively, 1919 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals have been identified at both the Central and State levels, Mr. Agarwal noted.
ICMR spokesperson Dr. R.R. Gangakhedkar said that while scientists would take some time to know which quasi-species of COVID-19 was predominant in the country, mutation (which is currently not seen), if any, will not likely make potential drugs and vaccine ineffective.
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“The ICMR is going to conduct a study in order to find out the potential effect of BCG vaccine in the fight against COVID-19,” he stated. Until the results were obtained, the vaccine would not be recommended even to health workers.
On Friday, the 12th meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 discussed in detail the impact of the extended lockdown. Mr. Agarwal said, “The GoM discussed the creation of new rapid and accurate diagnostics that may give results within 30 minutes; augmentation of the testing capacity through 30 labs; development of innovative pooling strategies to boost the number of people who can be tested and indigenous synthesis of critical components that are limiting domestic test kit production; and increase viral sequencing, which can help in epidemiology and to identify potentially important mutations”.
Progress was reported on vaccines development spanning inactivated virus, antibodies to major antigens, monoclonal, and RNA based vaccines. Convalescent plasma therapy had also been initiated on some sites, he pointed out.
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The ICMR said Union government was now working with global partners to ensure that effective vaccines were developed and made available as soon as possible. “India is a participant in the SOLIDARITY trial of the World Health Organization, through which the effectiveness of these therapies is being determined. Scientific task forces are evaluating the existing approved drugs and repurpose them for COVID-19”,’ observed Dr. Gangakhedkar.
India, the Health Ministry noted, had progressed into an indigenous synthesis of multiple promising anti-viral molecules such as Umifenovir, Favipiravir. Phytopharmaceuticals, and leads from traditional medical systems were also being explored in parallel along with the Ministry of AYUSH.