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773 new infections, 32 deaths due to COVID-19 in 24 hours: Health Ministry

New Delhi: The Union health ministry said on Wednesday that 32 people have died and 773 persons have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in India since Tuesday, taking the death toll due to COVID-19 to 149 and cases to 5,194 so far.

Going by the health ministry's data, the increase in number of cases between 9 AM on Tuesday and 9 AM on Wednesday is the highest in a 24-hour period.

However, a PTI tally of the figures reported by various states as on Tuesday 9.45 pm showed at least 162 deaths in the country due to COVID-19.

As the number of cases of coronavirus infections are rising in the country, the Centre's response and preparedness in coordination with the states is being intensified accordingly, Joint Secretary in the health ministry Lav Agarwal said while addressing the daily briefing at 4 PM to provide updates on the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Talking about strategies initiated in Maharashtra, which has registered the highest number of deaths so far, Agarwal said a door-to door survey is being conducted in a 35 square kilometer area in Pune Central and Kondhwa region as part of which teams of health workers are checking on persons with co-morbidities like diabetes and hypertension and if they had contact with an infected patient or any history of travel abroad.

"Pune district sealed the central region of Pune and Kondhwa area effectively and carried out door-to-door survey of homes located across 35 sq km area. The team is also checking persons with co-morbidity like diabetes and hypertension apart from travel history and contact tracing," according to a statement.

Similarly, required efforts are being made by the administration in terms of surveillance and contact tracing in Pathanamthitta in Kerala.

He said early identification is a key to the management of COVID-19.

Agarwal said that a major area of concern for them was that even asymptomatic people as carriers may pass on the infection to other people and stressed on following the social distancing and infection prevention and control practices in hospital setups.

"We are here dealing with a huge challenge of COVID-19 and a major area of our concern is that not only the symptomatic even the asymptomatic people, though the percentage is very less as carriers, may pass on the infection to other people," he said, adding, "In hospitals, the focus should be on to ensure infection prevention and control practices are followed so that health workers aren't infected."

Stating COVID-19 is an infectious disease, the official sought the support of the public in following the social distancing measures and lockdown.

Stating that states have been asked to continue its focus on surveillance and contact tracing as well as on building hospital infrastructure, Agarwal said, "We working with a twin approach -- focusing on social distancing and then implementing containment measures."

"Even if we see the day-to day fluctuations, but in terms of over all rise in the cases in the country some impact is there. But then again it's an everyday battle and even because of one failure all our efforts may go into waste."

He further said technology was being used to monitor clusters and households in quarantine.

Over the availability of hydroxychloroquine in the country, Agarwal said the the whole situation is being monitored at the highest level in terms of the requirement of the country linking it with the fact that how much is the production and also the API availability in the country.

"It is ensured that not only today that even in future there will not any lack of hydroxychloroquine and there sufficient stock of the drug is available in the country," he said, adding the drug is not recommended for everyday, has side effects and should be taken only when prescribed by a doctor.

Head of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases at ICMR Raman R Gangakhedkar said that 1,21,271 tests for COVID-19 have been done in the country so far.

Out of these 13,345 tests were conducted yesterday and 2267 tests out of that have been done in private labs. He said 139 labs under the ICMR network are currently functional and 65 private have been given approval.

When asked why larger number of deaths are being reported in Maharashtra, Khedkar said, "We cannot decide on the basis of absolute numbers where more deaths or less deaths are happening. If you see the death number (in the country) is so small that nobody can say that the number of deaths in Maharashtra is significantly high. It could be a chance event and it should be seen from that perspective."

Agarwal further said that the focus is on building a large scale work force across the country and in this direction doctors, nurses and paramedics, technicians and frontline workers are being provided training online to build their capacity.

He informed that the ministry of health in collaboration with AIIMS will launch training modules for physicians treating suspected or confirmed pregnant women to provide them with technical guidance on antenatal care and labour management.

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