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Data from latest ICMR study and what Germany’s Heinsberg district reveals about Covid-19

In episode 441 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta analyses the testing data from the latest ICMR study as well as studies from Germany’s Heinsberg district, where the virus first began.

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New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released a study that provides new data on coronavirus patients and testing. ICMR was earlier testing only suspected patients — those who had travelled overseas, those who were in contact with them and were symptomatic — and only 3 per cent of them tested positive for coronavirus.

This was not found to be satisfactory since the testing rate was very low. ICMR, then, began a sentinel surveillance programme from 15 February to 19 March at more than 50 major hospitals in India. They picked up representative samples of all cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), like pneumonia. In this study, two out of 965 samples tested positive for Covid-19.

On 20 March, the testing criteria changed and they started testing all SARI cases across India. A total of 4,946 samples were tested and 102 out of them were positive for Covid-19. This means out of 5,911 cases tests in total, only 104 have tested positive. Even though testing is targeted, only 1.8 per cent have tested positive.

The study indicates that 38 per cent of coronavirus cases do not have a history of foreign travel. However the government continues to deny community transmission of the virus and is confident contact tracing will be successful.

Also read: Modi’s lockdown has worked, but now India needs Sanjivani Booti, not Hanuman’s mountain

India not hit as hard by Covid-19

Countries around the world are debating why some countries including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are doing relatively well, while rich countries are suffering so much. However, Italy had some hope lately. Net patient admissions in ICUs in Italy came down for the first time since Covid-19 broke out there.

Tests in private labs have been picking up and despite resistance from patients, labs are sending data to government databases. Private labs were doing more and more tests, but there has been some change now. The Supreme Court has asked private labs to test people for Covid-19 for free. It is yet to be figured out how this will work.

Private labs have only tested suspected cases till now. Out of the 16,000 tests that private labs have done, only 320 have tested positive for Covid-19. In addition to the ICMR study, this data also suggests that India hasn’t been hit by the virus as hard as other countries.

Studies from Germany 

Covid-19 first surfaced in Germany in the Heinsberg district. Extensive studies are going on there and researchers have found important evidence.

They found that the virus did not spread from restaurants, supermarkets, hairdressers and or other such places. Instead, the virus spread from close get-togethers with a lot of people. Also, the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment has said no evidence of contact transmission has been found in Germany.

Also read: Modi had trapped himself in a corner, then coronavirus arrived to save the day for him


Countries have thanked India for allowing the export of paracetamol, which the government had banned on 3 March. Paracetamol was invented in 1878 and yet there is a shortage of the drug’s supply. India makes approximately 600 crore pills of paracetamol annually, of which 80 per cent is exported.

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