Coronavirus | No community transmission yet, says Centre

Maharashtra and Kerala report 12 new cases, Gujarat seven and Karnataka five.

Source: The Hindu

As India braced for a nationwide 14-hour lockdown on March 22 to break the spread of the novel coronavirus, and several State governments announced new, stringent measures to enforce social distancing, the Centre said there was no evidence of community transmission yet in the country.

The total number of people testing positive for the virus stood at 271 with 65 new cases on Saturday, the Union Health Ministry said. Reports from the States put the number of cases at 332.

Authorities are tracing 7,000 people who have come in contact with the affected persons, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said. All cases confirmed so far could be linked to imported cases, the official insisted, adding: “So far there’s no confirmation of any community transmission.”

Mr. Agarwal was responding to questions on reports of suspected COVID-19 infected persons in Tamil Nadu, Pune and Nagpur, who had no travel history or known history of contact with people from abroad.

Maharashtra and Kerala reported 12 new cases, Gujarat seven and Karnataka five.

The government held a conference call with Chief Secretaries of the States. Critical care training was imparted to 1,000 hospitals across the country and State health centres are scheduled to take part in a “mock drill” on Sunday on preparing for ventilator use and advanced care to patients, Mr. Agarwal added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for people to stay at home from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, observing a ‘Janata Curfew’. Essential services will not be disrupted during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the national capital could be put under an extended lockdown, if needed. The Chhattisgarh government ordered closure of all its offices, except those providing essential and emergency services, till March 31.

In Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a “near total” shutdown in five districts and eight other prominent towns for a week from Sunday morning. The Goa government imposed Section 144 across the State to prohibit large gatherings. The Kerala government has warned of strict action if people did not follow quarantine guidelines.

As of Saturday evening, 1.4 million passengers were screened at airports and 22 cases were cured or discharged. Four people have died.

Late on Friday, The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) expanded its testing to include all hospitalised patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (fever AND cough and/or shortness of breath) and asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case should be tested once between Day 5 and Day 14 of coming into contact with them. The testing strategy was reviewed by the National Task Force constituted by Secretary DHR & DG, ICMR and Chaired by Prof. V. K. Paul, Member, NITI Aayog. Testing was also being offered to all symptomatic contacts of laboratory confirmed cases and all symptomatic health care workers.

The government is set to specify specific guidelines for private sector diagnostic companies to offer testing services, Mr. Agarwal added but till late evening, prominent diagnostic labs in Delhi contacted by The Hindu, said they had not received any guidelines.

Mr Modi also held a video conference with representatives of pharmaceutical companies and asked them to boost production. The companies reportedly assured the Prime Minister that India had enough supplies for all essential pharma commodities and there was no reason to worry.

To further research on the coronavirus, the government decreed that biology-research institutes affiliated with Bio Safety Level-3 facilities and part of government affliated labs such as the part of the network of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Department of Biotechnology, The Defence Research and Development Organisation be allowed to culture the virus. This is in line with WHO recommendations. Extremely dangerous viruses can only be cultured at BSL-4 labs with currently only the National Institute of Virology, Pune and Defence Research and Development Estabishment, Gwalior in India making the grade.

(With inputs from PTI)

(This story has not been edited by Kashmir Today staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)