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Bracing for a rapid surge in cases: govt.

Death toll touches 273 nationwide, with 127 in Maharashtra; Kerala bucks trend with only two new cases

With the nationwide death toll from COVID-19 touching 273 and the number of positive cases reaching 8,447 on Sunday, the Union Health Ministry said India is preparing for a possible exponential surge in cases.

“We would rather be over-cautious and over-prepared,” a Ministry official said while admitting that the recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases in some countries was a matter of concern.

According to data released by the Ministry, the country registered as many as 909 new cases and 34 deaths since Saturday evening. The fatalities included 17 from Maharashtra, five from Delhi and three each from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. As many as 716 persons have been cured/discharged after treatment.

Amid demands for ramping up health surveillance, the Centre said it is expanding the COVID-19 testing capacity in State-run as well as private medical colleges.

The Centre’s proposals came even as a Punjab police officer’s hand was chopped off in a brutal attack on a team enforcing lockdown restrictions amid reports that plans were under way to ease some curbs during the likely extension of the lockdown.

According to reports from the State Health Departments, the total number of cases stood at 9,205, with 7,880 active ones. The death toll was was 332.

Maharahstra recorded 149 deaths, with 1,625 active cases, while Tamil Nadu recorded 1,014 active cases, with 11 deaths. Delhi had 1,104 active cases as the toll in the national capital climbed to 24.

Kerala, however, saw 36 more patients cured of the disease, adding only two positive cases. A total of 179 persons have been discharged in the State, with only two deaths reported so far.

More testing facilities

Addressing the daily press briefing, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said that with the average rate of over 4% growth in cases recently, the government is expanding testing capacity in State-run as well as private medical institutions.

“The government is extra prepared if the number of cases rises exponentially,” the official said.

“Fourteen mentor institutes, including the AIIMS and NIMHANS, have been identified to mentor the medical colleges and expand testing capacity,” he added.

An Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) official said more than 1,86,906 samples had been tested across the country. “In the past five days, on an average, 15,747 samples were tested per day,” the official added.

He said that while 40-plus COVID-19 vaccines were under consideration across the world, none had moved to the testing phase.

On the resurgence of cases in countries such as China, Mr. Agarwal said, “This is a new virus and there is much that we are still learning about it. We have taken this new development into account and are taking serious note of it.”

Boost to primary care

“We are now focussing on increasing the capacity of primary medical infrastructure which includes dedicated hospitals, isolation beds, ICU beds, and quarantine facilities, he said.

“Currently the requirement of beds for 8,356 cases is estimated to be 1,671 (20% of confirmed cases with moderate and severe/critical clinical symptoms), the present availability of beds is 1,05,980 in 601 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals across the country. The number of isolation beds in dedicated hospitals across the country is being further augmented,” he added.

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