At a press conference held at Delhi on Tuesday, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava spoke about the spread of coronavirus in India. He said that India is in the second stage of transmission i.e. local transmission. He also said that there is no sign of community transmission which is the third stage reported Livemint.
Local transmission means that if a person gets infected with coronavirus we can trace the person who passed on the infected. It could be a family member or friend that travelled aboard or came in contact with someone else who has a positive travel history. The person most likely got infected and then passed it on. This tracing of the infection is called contact tracing and it is a very useful tool to understand and even put a stop to the spread of the virus.
"We already know that we are in stage two. We are not in stage three, clearly as of now. There are four stages. The third stage is community transmission which we hope we shouldn't have," said Bhargava. "It would depend on how strongly we close our international borders, in terms of which the government has taken very proactive steps. But can't say that community transmission won't happen."
Bhargava also said “The lock-down that India currently is under is absolutely necessary. India has a 30-day window period to halt the beginning of community transmission of COVID-19 cases. The time to act is now."
What are the different stages of the spread of the virus?
Stage 1 - imported cases
These cases are the people who have travelled to foreign countries; places that have confirmed cases of the virus and have come back to India.
Stage 2 - local transmission
Like mentioned above, these cases are those people who have come in contact with those have have a travel history.
Stage 3 - community transmission
This is the stage we need to avoid as there is no way that the virus can be traced back to a certain person.
Stage 4 - epidemic
This is the last stage and what the world saw China grapple with.
Joining hands with private labs
ICMR has called upon private labs to begin coronavirus testing and has even sent them guidelines. The research institute has also asked these labs to consider conducting these test free of cost.
"We are having a dialogue with high-quality private labs that are accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). This is being done to understand the modalities of increased access to the test in an endeavour to prepare for future," said Bhargava.
Dr R Ganga Ketkar of ICMR said: "We are not averse to include the private sector. We have multiple safeguards in place. The discussions are on. Once it is done we will be proceeding to action. We are not averse to include the private sector in testing. However, we need to have multiple safeguard frames in place."
Additional Testing centres
ICMR is going to start operating two rapid testing laboratories and 49 additional testing centres by the end of this week. There are already 72 centres that are working around the country.
These rapid testing laboratories will be equipped to test as many as 1,400 samples each day. They will be set in Delhi-NCR and Bhubaneswar to exponentially increasing rapid diagnosing of COVID-19.
The additional centres will be at various medical colleges and other places. It includes the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) among others.
Bhargava said, "As of now, we have 72 laboratories in the country to test the samples. Still, we are expanding our capacity. We are going to start rapid testing laboratories which have high throughput systems to test COVID-19 samples. In a day, it can test 1,400 samples. We have got enough reagents to start them. We have placed orders for 1 million probes from the World Health Organisation (WHO). We should have them very soon."
Bhargava informed the press that ICMR has tested at least 11,500 samples nationwide since 21 January. So far, India has reported 147 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Out of this, 14 patients got cured and have been discharged and three people lost their lives due to the virus.
Updated Date: Mar 18, 2020 15:08:06 IST