The extent of spread in India and Stage 3 concerns
A study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to identify the spread and extent of transmission of coronavirus disease has revealed that just two per cent of the patients have tested positive for COVID-19.
The study was conducted on 5,911 patients of SARI or Severe Acute Respiratory Infection, caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus, in 52 districts in 20 states and union territories between February 15 and April 2.
The study showed that only 104 people (1.8 per cent) tested positive for COVID-19. Out of this group, 40 per cent cases did not have any international travel history or contact with laboratory tested confirmed COVID-19 positive case.
This study by ICMR has been published in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR). SARI surveillance was initiated in the early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in India.
Among the 965 SARI samples tested between February 15 and March 19, only two (0.2%) were positive for COVID-19. But when the testing strategy was expanded to include all SARI patients, out of 4,946 samples, 102 (2.1%) were positive for Sars-CoV-2.
Some experts say that these studies suggested the disease has entered the “community transmission” phase (Stage 3) in the country. “One may not like to call it community transmission but this is in fact community transmission of COVID-19,” said Dr T Jacob John, professor emeritus and former head of virology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore.
Community transmission is the third of the four stages of the spread of an infectious disease. The first is travel history, the second is the local transmission, the third is community transmission, and the fourth is epidemic.
India has maintained that the disease is in the second stage, or between stage two and stage three with “limited community transmission” in some clusters.
R Ganga Ketkar, the senior scientist at ICMR, reiterated that the country has still not reached Stage 3 of the disease spread.
A few days ago, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria had said that the threat of community transmission is serious given the number of cases. “It becomes even more serious if people don’t understand their responsibility of social distancing, home quarantine and avoiding crowded areas,” Guleria told. “Data from the US and Europe is pretty frightening and worrying. We have to take all steps that we don’t move in that direction,” he added.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 positive cases reached 6412 on Friday morning, the health ministry said. India reported 30 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the number of fatalities to 199 across the country, it further said.