The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday said the country has maintained a steady rate of COVID-19 positive cases — 3% to 5% over the past month and half — and has registered no significant increase in this trend so far.
The country currently has 5,865 confirmed cases and 169 deaths. This includes 591 new cases and 20 deaths in the last 24 hours, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Lav Agrawal said at the daily press briefing. He added that 473 people had recovered and been discharged so far.
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The ICMR noted that 1,44,910 samples from 1,30,792 individuals had been tested as on April 9. Of these, 5,734 samples tested positive till date. “Positivity rate ranges between 3%-5% with no major increase. On Wednesday, we tested 13,143 samples,’’ said ICMR official Manoj Murhekar.
Dr. Murhekar added that the Council was in the final stages of drawing up a protocol for trial on convalescent plasma therapy, for which approvals have to be taken.
“In this therapy, plasma from a COVID-19 recovered patient is transfused into an infected severely ill patient so that the specific antibodies in the blood of the recovered patient can help fight the infection. This is done for very ill patients on ventilators and has given good results in some studies abroad,” he said.
The nationwide death toll touched 205 on Thursday, State Health Departments reported. The number of active cases was 5,815. Maharashtra continued to report the maximum number of deaths, at 97, as well as active cases at 1,142. Tamil Nadu reported 799 active cases, with 96 new cases, while Delhi has 683 active cases with more three deaths since Wednesday.
The Health Ministry added that two of its labs have started whole genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus.
Mr. Agarwal said there was no need to panic over the availability of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE), but stressed these should be used rationally. “Twenty companies are manufacturing PPE in India and orders for 1.7 crore PPE have already been placed with them. There is no reason to believe any rumours or have any fear regarding PPE. Our guidelines state when, where and who should use the PPEs,” he said.
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“It (PPE) should be used as per requirement. We can use four N95 masks within a day, or use just one within a day. While the central government is augmenting supplies to the States, we are also requesting people to use them rationally,” he said.
He added that orders for 49,000 ventilators have been placed and their supply was underway. Mr. Agarwal said 10 teams of COVID-19 specialists have been sent to nine States including — Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat — to over see preparedness and ensure maximum containment of cases.
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“Indian Railways has produced about six lakh reusable face masks and over 4,000 litres of hand sanitiser; it has also converted 3,250 coaches into COVID-19 isolation units with beds. Total 5,000 coaches are to be converted,” Mr. Agarwal said.
Punya Srivastav, joint secretary, Home Ministry noted that for whoever is stranded due to lockdown, State governments are extending support through shelters and food camps.