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No evidence of community transmission: Health Ministry

States cite surge to extend lockdown; death toll across country climbs to 206

The Union Health Ministry on Friday denied evidence of community transmission (CT) of COVID-19 while reporting at least 700 new cases since Thursday evening. The nationwide death toll from the epidemic touched 206, and the Ministry confirmed 6,761 positive cases.

The Ministry’s response follows an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) report on Thursday of nearly month long surveillance of 5,911 randomly chosen samples of patients who exhibited Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI), whom 104 tested positive for COVID-19. All but two were tested between March 21-April 2 and 40 had no history of international travel or contact with someone with travel history but had picked up the infection, indicating community transmission, the ICMR said.

Over the last few weeks, there have been reports from several States of people testing positive but who were unable to explain the possible source of the infection. However, the Health Ministry has consistently maintained that this was not evidence for CT.

Health Ministry spokesperson Lav Agrawal said all of the cases of SARI were from districts where there were confirmed cases of the disease and that travel histories of those SARI patients were being investigated. “We’ll be the first ones to tell if you if such transmission has begun,” he said.

The Health Ministry response comes even as States have announced an extension of the lockdown beyond April 14 citing CT; Chief Minister Amarinder Singh declared on Friday that CT had been observed in Punjab.

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