Under a 21-day nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak, India on Thursday (March 26) reported 87 fresh cases of the infection and four deaths due to it, taking the country’s total count to 694 cases and 16 deaths so far.
The Union health ministry said the latest figures do not establish a clear trend and the government is not relaxed about anything at this point.
Addressing a press conference, Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry, said that while the “numbers of COVID-19 cases are increasing, there appears to be relatively a stable trend or even little bit reduction in the rate at which they are increasing.”
“This however does not establish a clear trend and in no way are we relaxed about anything at this point,” he added.
Agarwal said the ministry is hopeful of containing the spread of the coronavirus by social distancing policy, conducting a proper contact tracing of positive cases and by ensuring that all people at home quarantine are monitored.
While adding a note of caution, Agarwal said the community transmission phase of the disease will begin if the community and the government do not work collectively and follow the set guidelines of social distancing, home quarantine and treatment. “Continued people’s support for implementation of lockdown is needed,” he said.
Commenting over the cases reported in Hyderabad and Bhilwada, Raman R Gangakhedkar, head of the Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at ICMR, said, “Going by one or two cases we cannot say there has been community transmission.”
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“There is still no solid evidence to say there has been community transmission of coronavirus infection in India,” he asserted.
Agarwal further said 17 states have started work on earmarking hospitals for dedicated treatment of COVID-19 patients on their request. He also denied that the virus spreads through mosquitoes.
He said that the cabinet secretary had discussed with all chief secretaries the lockdown measures and preparedness of states in terms of hospitals and logistic arrangements and has called for making an arrangement to ensure essential commodities reach the people.
He said the ministry in collaboration with AIIMS, Delhi started providing orientation of protocol by training doctors online on epidemiology, infection control practices and case management.
“Further, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is involved by the government for conducting behavioural module training,” he said.
Agarwal informed about 64,411 people across the country have been brought into surveillance. Out of these, 8,300 people are quarantined at facilities while the remaining are at home quarantine. States are monitoring those people who came to India before travel restrictions were imposed, he said.
A home ministry official said a discussion on travel restrictions has been conducted during a meeting of the Group of Ministers and it will be conveyed to the public soon.
(With inputs from agencies)