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ICMR plans new survey to estimate COVID-19 spread

A view of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in New Delhi. File

A view of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is to begin a new survey to estimate the true prevalence of coronavirus infection, senior officials in the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Also read: Coronavirus | ICMR looks at COVID-19 vaccine launch by August 15

The organisation is yet to make public the details of its first (April) survey in 60 districts, which found that 0.73% of the population may have been exposed to the virus.

The survey that began on May 12 appeared to suggest, as The Hindu reported last month, that at least 7,00,000 people were exposed to the virus across 21 States even in early May. That number suggested that the true number of infections were 20 times higher than the 35,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported then in the entire country, suggesting that the actual COVID-19 count overall could be underestimated by a factor of at least 20.

“The results of that survey are still being processed and peer-reviewed and as soon as we are ready it will be shared,” said Rajesh Bhushan, OSD, Health Ministry, at a press conference. “There is yet another survey being planned to estimate prevalence across the country as also, an exercise by the National Centres for Disease Control, to estimate spread in Delhi. Those results will be available sooner.”

Also read: Coronavirus | India to witness COVID-19 peak in mid-November, says ICMR study

Director General of ICMR Dr. Balram Bhargava only shared headline figures on the prevalence in the district but didn’t disclose details on the extent of the spread in containment zones as well as hotspots.

A woman wearing face shields as a preventive measure wait outside the Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad on July 9, 2020.

A woman wearing face shields as a preventive measure wait outside the Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad on July 9, 2020.   | Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna

 

The Hindu reported on Wednesday quoting officials that the Delhi survey appeared to be indicating that at least 15% of the population may have been exposed to the virus.

An ICMR epidemiologist, on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that no firm plans were yet drawn on the conduct of a new survey. For such a survey, the government must either decide if the same districts that came under surveillance in the earlier survey are to be reinvestigated or a new set of places (to estimate if the infection has travelled more widely) must be decided. “There was a preliminary discussion last week but nothing has been finalised. Regarding the first survey, a complete report has been submitted to the Director General, ICMR, but I don’t know about it being submitted to a journal.”

Typically, most epidemiological surveys conducted by the ICMR have appeared in its in-house journal, the Indian Journal of Medical Research.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 5:33:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/icmr-plans-new-survey-to-estimate-covid-19-spread/article32033842.ece

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