Tuesday, 25 January, 2022
HomeHealthIndia is now testing random lung infection cases for COVID-19 to detect...

India is now testing random lung infection cases for COVID-19 to detect community spread

ICMR scientist Raman R. Gangakhedkar says a positive sample among patients without a travel history would mean active transmission of coronavirus in community.

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New Delhi: Health authorities in India have started collecting random samples from patients suffering from influenza-like symptoms and those admitted to intensive care units with severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, even those without a travel history abroad, and testing them for COVID-19.

Raman R. Gangakhedkar, head of the epidemiology and communicable diseases department at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said a positive sample among these patients without a travel history would mean active transmission of coronavirus in the community.

The ICMR scientist, however, said no evidence of community transmission has been found in India as of now. “As a scientist my immediate worry is to find evidence of community transmission. Currently we are not, but our job is to find the evidence.”  

He said India is conducting surveillance on influenza-like illnesses (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) to determine whether the virus has spread across the community. 

Amid questions about India’s testing efficacy, Gangakhedkar said the country has been testing random samples on a weekly basis since March 15. He said 52 regional labs across 27 states are set to collect 20 samples a week and test them for COVID-19, adding the latest reports would be known Wednesday.  

Earlier, the ICMR had reported that 150 such random samples were taken between 15 February and 29 February, none of which tested positive for COVID-19.  

From 30 January to 16 March, the ICMR scientist said, 9,100 samples have been tested for COVID-19, of which 114 have tested positive. The ICMR’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme monitors the testing process in the country. 

While India has the capacity to test 10,000 samples a day at its 67 testing centres, it has been conducting about 600 every day. The ICMR is now looking at expanding to 120 laboratories and increasing the overall testing kits from 2 lakh to 10 lakh, Gangakhedkar said. 

Also read: Coronavirus: Latest updates on cases in India, all you need to know about COVID-19

India at stage two of transmission 

According to Gangakhedkar, there are four stages of disease transmission, and India is at stage two. 

Stage one of disease transmission is when it is restricted to imported cases, stage two is local transmission when the contacts of the imported cases are affected, stage three is community transmission where the source of the infection is not easy to identify, and stage four is when it becomes an epidemic. 

India has a 30-day window to halt community transmission, ICMR scientists had said on 13 February. Gangakhedkar said all 114 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country have been among those whose infection can be traced to foreign travel.

Also read: Despite coronavirus, lakhs to gather in Ayodhya because this ‘Ram Navami is different’

Country to enforce social distancing

India has proposed social distancing interventions as a ‘non-pharmaceutical’ intervention  to control and prevent the spread of the disease in the community, according to Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The interventions include closure of educational institutions, gyms, museums, theatres and social and cultural centres. Interventions also include encouraging private organisations to allow work from home, postponing competitions and sporting events and limiting weddings to a small gathering and regulating mass gatherings with the help of local authorities.

The government has also advised against non-essential travel and ensuring maximum social distancing in public transport besides ensuring regular and proper disinfection of surfaces.

Agarwal said these social distancing interventions shall be in force until 31 March and will be reviewed according to the situation. 


Also read: Hong Kong shutdown is a lesson to the world in halting virus


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