The use of hydroxyl chloroquine as prophylaxis for high risk population faced with the SARS-CoV-2 infection was recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) national task force on Monday.
The coronavirus pandemic has currently affected over 3,40,000 people globally and claimed more than 15,000 lives. India has reported 471 cases with 441 active cases and nine fatalities , the Union Health Ministry said on Monday.
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ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava told a press briefing: “Only asymptomatic health care workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases should be allowed to use this. The protocol recommended by the National Task force has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for restricted use in emergency situations.”
He added that placing of healthcare workers under chemoprophylaxis should not instil a sense of false security.
“They should follow all prescribed public health measures such as frequent washing of hands, respiratory etiquettes, keeping a minimum distance and use of personal protective equipment (wherever applicable),” Prof. Bhargava said.
Also a day after the Council allowed private labs to test for COVID-19, Prof. Bhargava said the ICMR has now expedited approvals for manufacturing of domestic commercial testing kits.
“We are fast tracking approval for kit manufacturers. We want to clarify that those kits need not have USFDA or European CE approval but will need an ICMR-National Institute of Virology approval. Two such manufactures have already been approved,” he said.
“For private labs, we have issued detailed guidelines and 12 lab chains have been registered and they have begun work. They have 15,000 collection centres across India and these labs will increase as and when they register,” Prof. Bhargava said. Under ICMR's network, 111 labs are functional and government's testing capacity is over 10,000 samples per day, ICMR has said.
Meanwhile, clearing rumors about the mode of transmission of the virus Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia said: “Airborne spread has not been reported for COVID-19. Based on the information received so far and on our experience with other coronaviruses, COVID-19 appears to spread mostly through respiratory droplets (for instance produced when a sick person coughs) and close contact. This is why WHO recommends maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene.”
She added that the Chinese authorities reported that there could be a possibility of aerosol transmission in a relatively closed environment with prolonged exposure to high concentrations of aerosols, like in ICUs and CCUs in hospitals, but more investigations and analysis of epidemiological data is needed to understand this mode of transmission of the virus.”
Speaking on the shortage of personal protection equipment, the Union Health Ministry said the government is augmenting supplies of body coveralls, N-95 Masks, and 2-ply/3-ply surgical masks for healthcare professionals dealing COVID-19 cases.
“Since Body Coveralls (PPE) is a specialised protective suit meant for high level of protection to the health professionals, it has stringent technical requirements. Over the last 45 days, the Health and Textiles Ministry is attempting to locate adequate number of sources who can produce and supply the requirement of body coveralls for the government,’’ said a senior health official.
He added that during the last week of January 2020, the technical standard for the coveralls was prescribed as per WHO class-3 exposure pressure in accordance with ISO 16003 or its equivalent. Such materials are manufactured by a few international companies, who expressed their inability to supply on account of massive demand and ban on exports by the source countries.
“Only a limited quantity was offered and procured. So far, proto type garments of six Indian manufacturers have passed the prescribed tests and now we are continuously working to streamline the supply chain, remove bottlenecks and maintain a steady supply of all materials required for the healthcare professionals,” he added.