India approves first homegrown PCR kit for coronavirus testing as death toll reaches 9 and pandemic gains speed globally
COVID-19 cases continued to mount across the globe. There are now close to 382,000 cases and just under 16,600 deaths. While new cases in China remain low, with most of them being imported, the US saw over 100 deaths in a day for the first time and Spain’s death toll increased by 27% as well.
Italy, which is now the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 602 deaths yesterday, taking its total to 6,078 deaths overall. While Monday's death toll is a large number, it is a modest decrease from the days preceding it.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said the pandemic was gaining speed. It took 67 days for COVID-19 to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the next 100,000, and four days for the third. He added that while containment efforts would slow down the spread of infection, they are not sufficient to eradicate the disease. For that, there has to be extensive testing and quarantining of those confirmed positive, along with their contacts.
Lockdown in India
India now has close to 500 cases, with 9 deaths so far. Of these, just over 30 have recovered fully. In an encouraging development, all 11 Italian nationals who were getting treated in Medanta hospital were discharged and sent to the Italian embassy.
The Northeast reported its first case of the novel coronavirus today - a 23-year-old from Manipur tested positive.
Across India, 32 states/ UTs have declared a complete lockdown with 606 out of 728 districts involved. Domestic flights will also be grounded from midnight today (24th March) until the 31st of March. State governments are cracking down hard on those violating lockdown orders; according to the Kolkata police, 255 people were arrested yesterday in defiance of the law.
A malaria drug is given the nod
In another significant development, the National Task Force COVID-19, created by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for high-risk cases. High-risk cases involve asymptomatic healthcare workers and family members taking care of a COVID-19 positive family member. The drug is to be taken prophylactically (preventively). Hydroxychloroquine has been in the news after small studies and anecdotal evidence suggested it was responsive to the novel coronavirus. Following this, US President Donald Trump hailed its potential benefits and said that it could be used for treatment despite health officials urging caution and underlining that the evidence for the claim is flimsy at best.
Further, the Indian government had earlier approved testing by private companies to ramp up diagnostic capacity. Today, the first private PCR kit was approved by the government - the manufacturer is Mylab Discovery Solutions. More details are awaited about the role of private testing.
It is looking increasingly likely that the Olympics will be postponed. The US Olympic committee joined the chorus of nations - including countries like Canada, Australia, and Switzerland - saying that it will be a challenge to send their athletes to Tokyo in these difficult times. An International Olympic Committee (IOC) member commented that a postponement looks inevitable; an official statement is awaited.
The UK, which had initially played down the threat of COVID-19, announced lockdown measures throughout the country - people are only allowed out of their houses for ‘limited reasons’ and will be fined for flouting rules. The US also moved to lock down a vast chunk of its citizens as the world hunkers down to combat the contagion.
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Updated Date: Mar 24, 2020 14:02:29 IST
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