The doubling time of coronavirus infection cases has slowed down to 13.9 days in the last three days, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday, as the COVID-19 death toll rose to 2,549 and the number of cases to 78,003.
The minister, who visited the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) here and dedicated the COBAS 6800 testing machine to the nation, said 14 states and Union Territories have not reported any case of COVID-19 in last 24 hours.
These states and UTs are Gujarat, Telangana, Jharkhand, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry.
Also, Daman and Diu, Sikkim, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have not reported any case so far.
"It is heartening that the last three days' (COVID-19) doubling time has slowed down to 13.9 days, while the doubling time in the past 14 days was 11.1," Vardhan was quoted as saying in a health ministry statement.
About ramping up testing capability, the minister said, "We have now developed a capacity to conduct 1,00,000 tests per day. Today marks an important milestone as we have carried out nearly 20 lakh COVID-19 tests at more than 500 laboratories -- 359 government and 145 private -- in the country."
The COBAS 6800, he said, is the first fully automated, high-end machine for real-time COVID-19 PCR testing procured by the government, and is installed at the NCDC.
"The COBAS 6800 will provide quality, high-volume testing with a high throughput of test around 1200 samples in 24 hours. It will largely increase the testing capacity with reduction in pendency," Vardhan said.
Highlighting its other features, the Union Health Minister said COBAS 6800 is robotics-enabled minimising the chance of contamination as well as the risk of infection among healthcare workers since it can be operated remotely with limited human intervention.
As the machine requires a minimum BSL2+ containment level for testing, it cannot be placed at just any facility. COBAS 6800 can also detect other pathogens such as viral Hepatitis B and C and HIV, according to an official statement.
Vardhan also visited the control room and testing laboratories, and reviewed the current status of COVID-19 testing with NCDC Director Dr S K Sing and other senior officials, it said.
"I salute the pathologists, lab technicians, scientists and other staff who are our 'Corona Warriors' and working under tremendous risky conditions day and night to save their fellow countrymen," he said and stressed the people need to shun stigmatising frontline healthcare providers and applaud their contribution.
Vardhan also emphasised on the quality and sturdiness of community surveillance and contact tracing in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
"It is the need of the hour that all people who are either at home or facility quarantine, need to maintain a strict vigil, and practise the protocols of social distancing, and personal hygiene. Special care needs to be taken of the elderly, pregnant women and children," he said.
As many as 134 COVID-19 deaths and 3,722 fresh instances the respiratory infection were reported in 24 hours till Thursday 8 am, according to the Union Health Ministry.
With 26,235 people having cured of the disease so far, Vardhan said the recovery rate has further improved to 33.6 per cent from 32.83% on Wednesday on while the fatality rate was 3.2 per cent.
He also added that as of Wednesday there were 3 per cent active COVID-19 patients in ICU, 0.39 per cent on ventilators and 2.7 per cent on oxygen support.