India has managed to maintain a linear growth of COVID-19 cases over the one month period during its lockdown, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday even as the country reported over 1,409 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of cases to 21,700 with 16,689 active ones.
There have been over 4,324 recoveries, which takes the recovery rate to 19.89 %, the Health Ministry said. A total of 686 deaths have been reported, with 34 in the past 24 hours.
It added that as on Thursday, there are 12 districts that did not have a fresh case in the last 28 days or more. Since April 21, eight new districts have been added including — Chitradurga (Karnataka), Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh), Imphal West (Manipur), Aizawl West (Mizoram), Bhadradri Kothagudem (Telangana), Pilibhit (U.P.), SBS Nagar (Punjab) and South Goa (Goa). Also, 78 districts from 23 States/Union Territories have not reported any fresh cases during the last 14 days.
State Health Departments have put the nationwide death toll at 718 with 23, 034 cases of which 17, 428 are active cases. Maharashtra has 5,304 active cases with Mumbai reporting 478 new cases and eight deaths on Thursday taking its death toll to 168 and 4,232 cases.
“Despite a 24-fold increase in testing, the percentage of positive cases is not rising phenomenally when compared to the percentage of positive cases at the beginning of the lockdown,” said Chairman of the empowered group-2 C.K. Mishra.
“The growth of cases has been more or less linear, not exponential; this indicates that the strategies we have adopted have succeeded in containing the infection to a particular level,” he added.
“One crucial weapon we employed during the 30-day lockdown period is RT-PCR testing which has been scaled up. While on March 23 we had did 14,915 tests by April 23 we have now done more than 5 lakh tests,” said Mr Mishra, who is coordinating availability of hospitals, isolation/quarantine facilities, disease surveillance/testing.
Mr Mishra added that during the 30 days of lockdown, India has been able to cut transmission, minimise spread and increase the doubling time of COVID-19. “We have been consistently ramping up our testing and utilising our time to prepare for the future,” he said.
India currently has 19,4026 isolation beds for severe and critical cases, 24,644 ICU beds in 3773 facilities and 1,66,960 isolation beds in care centre with 12,371 ventilators, according to the Health Ministry.
Mr. Mishra added that India has so far done better than majority of developed countries in containing the virus.
“We need to evolve our future strategy based on the current position. The current report shows that our testing strategy has been focused, targeted and continues to expand, this is an evolving strategy based on our learning as we go along,’’ said Mr. Mishra.
Stating that the gold standard for COVID-19 testing remains the RT-PCR test which detects the virus Director- General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Balram Bhargava noted that “this has been India’s principle strategy for testing. Our philosophy has been more labs, more tests, more resources. From 100 labs at beginning of lockdown, we have 325 laboratories testing for COVID-19. Supply chain has been created. Centre has been working with States to ensure required reagents are supplied to testing labs in timely and calibrated fashion, enabling diversion of reagents to hot spots as needed. We have also decentralized the supply chain.”
Encouraging people to report any early symptoms of COVID-19 All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Dr. Randeep Guleria said, “Due to the stigma we have attached to COVID-19, patients are not coming forward or they are coming very late when they have severe breathlessness issues, thereby increasing morbidity and mortality.”
He added that as per the patient profile, the critical thing is oxygen and hospital preparation is focused on ensuring oxygen support to those who need it.
“Our goal is to ensure that most people get cured at COVID Health Centre stage itself. There is hope as far as treatment is concerned. In this disease almost 80 % cases recover with supportive therapy, 15 % need oxygen support while only 5 % need ventilator support. Delay in treatment may lead to higher mortality. I want to reiterate that many COVID-19 patients can be saved by just giving them oxygen; if they do not get oxygen, it can trigger various other problems, our strategy of expanding oxygen support is based on this,” said Dr. Guleria.
He added that convalescent plasma, HCQ and other repurposed drugs, and newer drugs are being looked at for treatment in COVID-19 cases.