The number of coronavirus cases in India crossed the 900-mark on Saturday but the government has ruled out that the country is in stage-3 of the virus transmission, also defined as the community-transmission phase.
Saying there was no concrete evidence yet, officials of the health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research, however said there have been “sporadic” cases where no foreign travel history or contact history with infected patients was established.
As of now, the country has reported 918 confirmed coronavirus cases and 20 deaths.
“We will not over-interpret the situation unless there is significant evidence of people getting infected,” said Dr R Ganga Ketkar, a senior official with ICMR said during the central health ministry’s daily briefing on the pandemic on Saturday.
The term community transmission means that the source of infection for the spread of an illness is unknown or a link in terms of contacts between patients and other people is missing. It refers to the difficulty in grasping the epidemiological link in the community beyond confirmed cases.
The health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research on Saturday looked to brush aside concerns of low rate of tests for coronavirus, and said testing has been expanded and 5 lakh new probes that have arrived from the United States will help further improve detection of cases.
News18 had on Friday reported how India’s rate of testing, at nearly 18 tests per one million of the population, is one of the lowest in the world. Experts have argued that the low number of coronavirus cases could be because of limited testing and the actual figures of infected people may be much higher.
At a joint press briefing, an ICMR official said that testing criteria was expanded to include all patients who have severe acute respiratory illness. The official said surveillance and random sampling is not being done anymore as testing criteria has been widened.
The health ministry also affirmed that social distancing and a nation-wide lockdown could play an important role in breaking the chain of transmission. "We have been pre-emptive and graded in our response to arrest spread of coronavirus," joint secretary for the ministry Lav Aggarwal said.
The government on Saturday also said India is boosting its overall health infrastructure by initiating measures like designating dedicated hospitals for affected patients in states, ramping up procurement of ventilators and mobilising resources of Railways and armed forces to deal with any eventuality.