Health Ministry confirms that it was looking at tweaking the testing protocol, with a rapid anti-body test in hotspots, where those indicating a positive would be sent for confirmation, and others would be quarantined.
The number of COVID-19 cases in India has doubled in the past week, with 328 more cases and 12 deaths reported on April 2. According to the Union Health Ministry, the tally now stands at 2,069 cases, with 53 deaths and 155 cured of the novel coronavirus infection.
The Health Ministry said there were reports of several doctors, nurses and paramedics testing positive.
The number of cases increased sharply from 909 this weekend, and the Health Ministry confirmed that it was looking at tweaking the testing protocol, with a rapid anti-body test in hotspots, where those indicating a positive would be sent for confirmation and the others would be quarantined.
“We will be releasing the details soon,” R. Gangakhedkar, head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases-I, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said at a press conference.
The Health Ministry said extensive action was being taken in Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi in Mumbai, after a death due to COVID-19 was reported there.
“In this area, we have sealed the building from where the case has been reported, and the collection of samples from all residents of the building is under way. As per the protocol, contact-tracing is also under way,” said Lav Agrawal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry.
Mr. Agrawal condemned the attack on medical workers and said the Union government, along with the States and Union Territories, had been working to prevent, contain and manage COVID-19. “These efforts are being regularly monitored at the highest level.”
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting with the Chief Ministers through videoconference on Thursday and urged them to manage the crisis at the district level and focus on testing, isolation and quarantine. He said the war against COVID-19 had just begun. The States were also requested to upgrade the healthcare human resource, conduct online training for front-line workers and increase the capacity through the involvement of retired health workers from government and private hospitals,” Mr. Agrawal said.
Asked about medical workers threatening to resign because of the shortage of personal protection equipment at hospitals, Mr. Agarwal said, “Yes, there was a shortage of equipment, but now supply of more than 1.5 crore pieces of personal protection equipment has started. Personal protection equipment has also been sent to the States, based on their needs. We have placed orders for more than 1 crore N95 masks.”
The Central government has launched Aarogya Setu, a mobile application, to connect health services and the people in the combined fight against COVID-19. The application will inform the users of the potential risk of infection, the best practices and medical advisories.
The Health Ministry said the States had also been asked to take effective measures to fight fake news in order to prevent panic. Additional guidelines had been issued for dialysis of COVID-19 patients.
“The Health Ministry, with the help of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), has recommended general public measures on the mental health of the elderly and children to deal with anxiety and stress due to the outbreak. These are available at www.mohfw.gov.in/. A psycho-social toll-free helpline number, 08046110007, is also functional for any behavioural health-related query,” the Ministry said in a release.
The Ministry of Defence has denied reports in a section of the media that ₹50 lakh meant for personal protection equipment was redirected to the PM-CARES fund by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), a defence public sector undertaking. The Ministry has termed these reports incorrect.
BDL has contributed ₹9.02 crore to the PM-CARES fund. The amount includes one-day salary of the BDL employees and the funds under the Corporate Social Responsibility. This contribution signifies BDL’s solidarity with the entire nation’s collective effort to fight COVID-19, the Ministry said.
BDL is always prepared to explore other possible assistance, and would be happy to examine any specific requests in this regard.