Govt admits community transmission in India

Govt admits community transmission in India
Harsh Vardhan (File)
NEW DELHI, OCT 18 (IANS/AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 10/18/2020 11:51:30 AM IST

 Says ‘limited to some states and districts’

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday admitted that India is in the community transmission stage. However, it is limited only to certain districts and states. The statement has come in the backdrop of West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s admission on Monday that the community transmission of Covid-19 has started in the state.

Vardhan’s statement was a response to a query made during his weekly webinar, ‘Sunday Samvaad’ where he interacts with his social media audience.

The query was “Mamta Banerjee has said there are instances of community transmission in the state. Are there other states with community transmission as well?” To this, the minister responded, “In different pockets across various states, including West Bengal, community transmission is expected to occur, especially in dense areas. However, this is not happening across the country. It is limited to certain districts occurring in limited states.” 

The admission comes after months of denial. This is the first time that the health minister has acknowledged the community transmission.

Earlier this week, Banerjee had urged people of West Bengal to maintain caution ahead of the upcoming Durga Puja season.

In July, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had released a guidance document which had inadvertently revealed that community transmission happened in India as early as April.

The document was later taken down from the website of the union health ministry.

Covid peak over, can be controlled by Feb: Panel
Even as the Union Health minister, Harsh Vardhan Sunday admitted that India is in the community transmission stage, a government-appointed panel on Sunday said that the country has past the coronavirus peak, pointing to the tapering number of cases over last two weeks. 
From a peak of 97,000-plus cases, India is now logging 60,000-plus cases a day. The daily spike stood at 61,871 infections today, taking the tally close to the 75-lakh mark, Health Ministry data this morning showed. The number of active cases remained below eight lakh for the second consecutive day.
Since August 8, India has been logging the highest figures worldwide in the daily spike in cases. Today, in a first in nearly two months, the US had the higher figure.
The panel --which has members of the Indian Council of Medical Research and IITs -- said if safety measures are properly followed, the virus can be brought under control by “early next year, with minimal active cases by February end”.
The total number of infections by the time the epidemic reaches its slowest point, could be about 105 lakh (10.5 million), the panel said. The current figure is 75 lakh.  
But alongside the reducing number of cases, pushing the US total ahead of India, there has been a spike in the number of fatalities.
 Over the last 24 hours, the country also reported 1,033 deaths linked to the virus, taking the total number of fatalities to 1,14,031.  
The highest number of fatalities recorded in the country so far was 1,290 on September 16.
The panel, however, has warned of a possible spike in the festive season and with the onset of winter. Both factors, it said, can increase people’s susceptibility to Covid. Festive seasons carry a big risk because of crowds and laxity in maintaining safety measures.
It further said that Relaxation in safety measures can lead to a significant rise. It can be as much as “upto 26 lakh cases within a month,” the committee said, adding that only 30 per cent of the population has developed immunity so far.
The committee underscored that protective measures must continue. “If all protocols are followed, the pandemic can be controlled by early next year with minimal active cases by February end,” the panel has concluded.
Lockdowns, however, are now undesirable and should be in place only in narrow geographical areas. The country, the panel said, should now move towards full resumption of activities.
There is some evidence that large gatherings cause rapid spread, the committee said, pointing to Kerala, where after the celebration of Onam festival from August 22 to September 2, a sharp rise was observed September 8. The infection probability increased by 32 per cent and the effectiveness of medical response dropped by 22 per cent for Kerala in September, the committee said.
The committee was appointed to come out with “Indian National Supermodel” -- a mathematical model for Covid-19 -- that can shed light on the likely trajectory of the pandemic in India. Its members are from IITs and branches of  the Indian Council of Medical Research, the country’s nodal body in the fight against coronavirus.

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