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No community transmission just yet

No community transmission just yet

New Delhi: At a time when India has started witnessing 'manifold' increase in the positive cases of COVID-19, the negative results of tests conducted to validate community transmission has come as a major relief for the government and people of this country.

According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Balram Bhargava, all 500 randomly collected samples for community transmission have tested negative. "As of now there is no community transmission as all samples have tested negative, but it would be too early to say that there would be no community transmission. We are strengthening out testing capacities to test more number of samples," he said.

"As I had told earlier, there are four stages of COVID-19 and presently we are in stage 2 — local transmission and the third stage is community transmission which we hope we don't have. It would depend on how strongly we close our international borders, in terms of which government has taken very proactive steps," Bhargava said as India on Tuesday reported 138 positive cases, out of which 24 are foreign nationals. At least 14 Coronavirus patients have been cured and three have died during the course of treatment.

An 18-year-old, who recently returned to Kolkata from England, on Tuesday tested positive for the novel Coronavirus, making it the first case in Bengal, a Health department official said. He was admitted to Beleghata ID Hospital after he showed symptoms, he added.

Commenting on the expansion of testing labs, the ICMR DG said: "At present, we have 72 functional laboratories in the ICMR system and we have also engaged 49 non-ICMR labs of CSIR, DRDO, DBT, government medical colleges, which would start functioning from the end of this week. In total, we have 121 functional labs."

He further added: "We are also in the process to rope in 51 NABL accredited private laboratories to increase access to the tests while ensuring appropriate safeguards."

However, the ICMR DG maintained that private labs have offered to provide testing facilities without any cost. Though, he failed to make it clear as who would bear the test cost at the private labs as the charges of COVID-19 test is about Rs 5,000.

"We're also operationalising through two high-throughput systems which are the rapid testing laboratories. They will be operationalised in two locations and they can test up to 1,400 samples per day in those labs. It would be operational by the end of this week," he said.

On the availability of testing kits, he stated: "We have already placed orders for 1 million probes, while reagents and primers are unlimited. We have also requested WHO to provide us 1 million probes."

Commenting on testing protocols, Bhargava said: "All asymptomatic patients who have taken international flights in the past 14 days should get tested if they develop symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Those who have been in close contact with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases must be tested if they develop any symptom." He further added: "All healthcare workers managing the respiratory condition of patients should be tested too if symptomatic." In order to ensure effective and seamless coordination between the Centre and states, 30 nodal officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above have been drawn from various ministries to liaison, coordinate and help the states with respect to anything that is required from the Centre.

"They will be deputed to the states, and shall work in close coordination with state authorities for coordinating the preparedness and response measures. An orientation meeting of all the officers is to be held on Wednesday," the ministry official said, adding that the ministry has also banned travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia to India from

Tuesday onwards till March 31.

The ministry has also issued guidelines for dead body management towards standard precautions, infection prevention and control measures, handling of the body and environmental disinfection.

The Health Ministry has also recommended use of anti-HIV drug combinations Lopinavir and Ritonavir on a case-to-case basis depending upon the severity of the condition of a patient having Coronavirus infection. In its revised guidelines on the 'Clinical Management of COVID–19' issued on Tuesday, the ministry recommended Lopinavir-Ritonavir for high-risk groups patients aged above 60, suffering from diabetes mellitus, renal failure, chronic lung disease and are immuno-compromised.

The government has decided to keep all public monuments and museums — including the iconic Taj Mahal and Red fort — shut till the end of this month.

Meanwhile, as a preventive measure to contain the spread of COVID-19, Ministry of Railways has increased prices of platform tickets from Rs 10 to Rs 50 for 250 stations in the country to minimise the footfall.

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