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National

Community spread in India? Experts, government differ

March 29, 2020 05:29 AM

COUTESY HT MARCH 29
Community spread in India? Experts, government differ
HT Correspondent

letters@hindustantimes.com

New Delhi : Ten people hospitalised with acute pneumonia in India have tested positive for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Some scientists would consider that community transmission -- the all-important phase 3 of an infectious disease such as Covid-19, where infected people have no history of travel to a Covid-positive country, or direct or indirect contact with an infected person or a carrier.

ICMR’s head of epidemiology and communicable diseases Dr Raman Gangakhedkar admits that there are a few “sporadic instances” such as this, but that “the numbers are not significant enough to establish that there is community transmission because people sometimes don’t recall or don’t give the correct history fearing stigma”.

“Till these numbers are not significantly high, we should not over-interpret it,” he added.

The number of positive cases in India went past 1,000 (1,013) as of 10.30pm Saturday night. On Friday, they rose by over 100 for the first time. Experts say India’s numbers will continue to remain low because the country’s testing protocol is still very stringent. It is restricted to symptomatic and asymptomatic people with a history of travel to countries hit by the Covid outbreak and contact with infected people, and to health workers caring for Covid-19 patients. While testing has now been expanded to 47 private laboratories (in addition to 113government ones), the protocol remains the same.

“I don’t know what is stopping the government from doing extensive testing. It’s difficult to speculate on community transmission without data, I think we will know of community transmission only after it has crossed a certain threshold,” said Dr Amit Singh, associate professor, Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

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