India’s death toll from COVID-19 rose to 83 on Sunday, with 11 fatalities since Saturday. The number of confirmed infections across the country stood at 3,577 cases, with 505 new cases; 274 persons have recovered, the Union Health Ministry said.
“We are chasing the virus rather than the other way around and India’s strategy continues to be preventive. We rather be over prepared,” Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said at Sunday’s press briefing.
The Ministry maintained that last month’s Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi has pushed up the doubling rate of cases in India to 4.1 days from the estimated 7.4 days.
Reports from State Health Departments put the death toll across the country at 127, with 3,603 active cases. The maximum number of cases continued to be reported from Maharashtra at 748, with 13 fatalities in the past 24 hours. Tamil Nadu followed with 559 active cases, reporting two fatalities since Saturday.
Stating that there is no evidence to suggest airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases with the Indian Council of Medical Research Raman Gangakhedkar said rapid antibody-based blood test for COVID-19 would be deployed by Wednesday for high prevalence areas and hot spots across India.
Asked about concerns raised by doctors of AIIMS, Delhi and other cities on the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs), Mr. Agarwal said the situation should ease in few days.
“... [the] allotment done by us is based on cases reported in States. We have advocated for rational use of PPEs. We are also making an effort to see how procurement can be further enhanced. We have discussed this with all health secretaries and other officials,” he said.
He explained that initially a component of the PPE was being imported so there was some shortage but now domestic manufacturers have started producing and procuring them from whichever country has them.
Mr. Agarwal quoted Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan as saying that till a drug or vaccine is found, social distancing and lockdown are the only available and effective vaccines against the novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Delhi have opposed a circular calling for mandatory donations from salaries to the PM CARES fund. They also expressed concern about lack of PPEs, difficulties in travel faced by health care workers, and lack of sanitation and urged that funds collected be used locally instead of transferring it to the PM CARES.
The Health Ministry issued a clarification on Sunday night stating that a fake notification was doing the rounds asserting that five days salary of employees under Health Ministry would be remitted to the PM CARES fund.
Stating that reports of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 274 districts, the Ministry said lessons have been learned from high-incidence areas including Agra and Gautam Buddh Nagar in Utta Pradesh, Bhilwara in Rajasthan, East Delhi and Mumbai Municipal in Maharahstra which recently saw a large number of COVID-19 cases.
Punya Salila Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Home Ministry noted that so far 27,661 relief camps/shelters have been set up across States across India — 23,924 by State governments and 3,737 by NGOs with 12.5 lakh migrant workers taking shelter in them. 19,460 food camps have also been set up (9,951 by govt and 9,509 by NGOs). More than 75 lakh people are being provided food and 13.6 lakh workers are being provided shelter and food by their employers and industry, she said.