India is not in the community transmission stage, said Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Balram Bhargava at a press conference on Thursday.
"India is not in community transmission. It is only a term which is used... there is a debate around this term but WHO has not also defined this term," Bhargava said in the online press briefing.
The ICMR's statement comes amid India recording its biggest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases with 9,996 fresh infections and 357 patients dying, taking the total tally to nearly 2.86 lakh cases. This is the ninth consecutive day that the country -- fifth worst-hit by the pandemic -- reported over 9,000 Covid-19 cases.
He also talked about the increase in India’s testing capabilities. “From one lab in January, we now have over 850 laboratories conducting tests. We have gone about it in a calibrated manner. We are now testing 1.51 lakh tests per day and have a capacity to conduct up to 2 lakh tests per day,” Bhargava said, adding that till a couple days ago, over 50 lakh tests to detect Covid-19 had been conducted.
Bhargava also briefly discussed the findings of the first Sero survey done by the research department.
The survey also found that the risk of people getting infected from COVID-19 were higher in urban areas (1.09%), higher in urban slums (1.89%) than it was in rural areas. NITI Aayog member VK Paul called it the largest epidemiological survey in the world.
The ICMR chief said the survey, which has reported on the situation as it was by the end of April or five weeks after the lockdown was implemented, found that less than 1% of the population was affected by the virus and the fatality rate from the infection was quite low at 0.08%.
The data, Bhargava said, also showed that large sections of the population were still vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.
“So we need to protect the high-risk groups, maintain social distancing. A large percentage of the population is still susceptible. States cannot lower guard, need to maintain surveillance and containment,” he added.
Paul said the two big findings of the report were that – the country has been successful in containing the virus and vigilance against the Covid-19 virus had to be maintained for months to come.
Responding to questions on hospitals turning away patients, Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said most of such complaints had been received from Mumbai and Delhi.
He also said the ministry had urged people to call state helplines to get advice on how to get tested and admitted. “There have been some gaps but we are trying to get, with the help of states, more streamlined in our processes,” Agarwal added.