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Coronavirus | India ‘watching’ WHO alert on airborne spread of virus

Commuters wait for a bus in Kolkata on July 9, 2020.

Commuters wait for a bus in Kolkata on July 9, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

Continuing to rule out community transmission of COVID-19 in the country, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday said it is “closely watching the dynamic evolution of the virus situation in India, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) now indicating that the virus may be airborne”.

After earlier denials, the WHO on Tuesday said there is evidence emerging of the airborne spread of the coronavirus, after over 230 scientists across the world urged the global body to update its guidance.

 

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, had said.

Ms. Van Kerkhove said the WHO would publish a scientific brief summarising the state of knowledge on modes of transmission in the coming days. 

“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” she said.

“We are keeping abreast with the information coming from WHO headquarters on this aspect,” said Rajesh Bhushan, OSD, Union Health Ministry, on Thursday at a press briefing, adding that India is currently seeing what can be termed as localised outbreak of the virus in various parts of the country.

“Presently, there are 2,69,789 active cases under active medical supervision with India’s recovery rate now at 62.09 %. It would perhaps be not fair to compare India to other countries in terms of absolute numbers. India has 195.5 cases per million population which is amongst the lowest in the world,” said Mr. Bhushan. He added that India currently has a fatality rate of 2.75%.

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The Ministry added that the data of the age-wise COVID fatalities in India as on July 9 indicates that 25% population (above 45 years) has witnessed 85% deaths, while 10% population (above 60 years) has witnessed 53% deaths.

Coronavirus | India ‘watching’ WHO alert on airborne spread of virus
 

Mr. Bhushan refused to put a date to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) previous claim of being able to release an indigenous vaccine by August 15. The official added that two Indian companies — Bharat Biotech and Cadila Healthcare — were developing vaccines and both vaccines have completed animal toxicity studies.

“Now after approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), the two vaccines have been permitted to go in for Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. Trials will hopefully begin soon,” he said.

ICMR scientist Nivedita Gupta also replying to the internal letter which instructed clinical trial sites chosen to conduct human trials of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine, to make it available for public use by 15 August said the letter, signed by ICMR DG Balram Bhargava, was “only intended to expedite duly approved trials.”

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The Health Ministry, meanwhile, said it is reviewing the drug remdesivir for use among COVID patients after the drug indicated negative impact on the liver function.

“A committee has been formed which is looking at the drugs and therapies under use and we will change the medical use protocol if needed,” said Mr. Bhushan.

Dr. Gupta said India is seeing an increase in testing facilities. She said: “An average of more than 2.6 lakh samples being tested per day. We hope to see a further rise by the use of the antigen test. During the last 24 hours 2,67,061 samples have been tested. As on date, 1,07,40,832 samples have been tested. India currently has 1,132 labs comprising 805 in the government sector and 327 private labs.”

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Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry Punya Saila Srivastava, also present at the conference, noted that over 20,000 tests are being conducted in Delhi every day and that till July 8, 6,79,831 COVID19 tests had been conducted in Delhi, which means 35,780 tests per 10 lakh people.

“Increasing the number of beds, use of rapid antigen testing, demarcating of containment zones, contact tracing have been used in Delhi to bring down the numbers,” she added.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 6:53:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-india-watching-who-alert-on-airborne-spread-of-virus/article32033339.ece

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