The government on Thursday said that herd immunity in India to defeat the coronavirus pandemic is not a strategic option and that the only solution is immunisation.
"In a country with the size of the population like India, herd immunity cannot be a strategic choice or option. It can only be an outcome, and that too at a very high cost as it means lakhs of people would have to be infected, get hospitalised and many would die in the process," said R Bhushan, Secretary in the Ministry of Health at a press briefing.
Herd immunity occurs when a large number of people, usually 70% to 90%, become immune to a contagious disease after being infected to it.
"Are we approaching herd immunity? The health ministry believes it still far away and in the future. For now, we have to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, following hand hygiene and maintaining 'do gaz ki doori (maintaining distance of two yards)," he said. "Till a vaccine comes up, following COVID-appropriate behaviour is the social vaccine against the disease."
Bhushan also said phase 1 and 2 human clinical trials of two indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates have started. He added that the government has so far received 131 claims under the Rs 50 lakh COVID-19 insurance scheme for healthcare providers and payments have already been made in 20 cases.
"Under the scheme, we have received 131 claims. The claims are a bit slow in coming as the families are initially in a state of shock and therefore it takes time to sign and fill up the necessary paperwork. Out of these 131 claims, in 20 cases payments have already been made. In Sixty-four cases payment has been processed and would be made in the coming few days while 47 cases are with different state governments," he said.
About the spread of coronavirus infection in the country, Bhushan said Maharashtra, Delhi and Telangana have reported the maximum number of cases.
Due to enhanced testing infrastructure, on an average 4,68,263 COVID-19 tests have been conducted daily from July 26 to 30. The recovery rate among COVID-19 patients too has increased from 7.85 per cent in April to 64.44 per cent on Thursday, the officer said. "Recoveries are now 1.9 times the number of active coronavirus cases," he said.
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Bhushan added that 21 states and Union Territories have case positivity rate less than 10 per cent, while in four it is less than five per cent. The COVID-19 positivity rate in Rajasthan is 3.5 per cent, Punjab 3.9 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 4 per cent, and Jammu and Kashmir 4.7 per cent, he said.
Bhushan also stressed that effective clinical management has led to a decline in COVID-19 case fatality rate from 3.33 per cent on June 18 to 2.21 per cent on July 30.