About 42% of those confirmed positive for COVID-19 in India are between the ages of 21-40 years old, the Union Health Ministry said on April 4, for the first time throwing light on the demography of the disease in India. Only 17% of those testing positive were over 60.
By comparison, data from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control said 29% of those affected were in the 20-44 age group and 32% were above 60. India recorded 2,904 cases and 75 deaths as on Saturday compared to the 2,79,355 cases and 7,451 deaths in the United States.
However, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal, who shared the data with the media, did not provide any age-specific analysis on mortality in the country, only saying that most of those who succumbed to the disease were “aged” and also had underlying complications such as the diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Mr. Agarwal added that 9% of those testing positive were below 20 years.
The Ministry said the number of new cases recorded nationwide between Friday and Saturday was 601, with 58 critically ill in Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
The death toll from the outbreak, according to data from State Health Departments, rose to 103 with Maharashtra reporting the maximum at 32. The most number of active cases were also reported from Maharashtra at 551, followed by Tamil Nadu with 476 and Delhi with 431 of the total 3,196 cases.
As the number of cases continued to rise, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued an advisory to start rapid antibody based blood tests in areas reporting clusters and in large migration gatherings or evacuee centres. The results of such tests will be available in 15-30 minutes.
The Health Ministry said nearly 30% of the cases were linked to last month’s Tablighi Jamaat meet in Delhi.
“About 1,023 positive cases linked to the organisation can be traced to 17 States. We couldn’t manage and understand this event and the cases increased due to this,” said Mr. Agarwal. Nearly 22,000 contacts related to the religious event had been quarantined. About 75,000 had so far been tested, an ICMR spokesperson at the press briefing said. “We are gradually increasing our testing capacity. Our capacity is now nearly 10,000 tests per day.”
The Health Ministry has also revised its advisory on the use of masks. The new guidelines accept the role of The health ministry’s position has been that those who didn’t feel sick and weren’t visiting hospitals or tending to those diagnosed with the affliction needn’t wear masks. On Saturday, however, the organisation released a set of guidelines accepting the role of “face covers.” Unlike the surgical masks and respirator masks used in hospitals, “face covers” are home made and made of cotton and could be re-used provided they were properly washed and dried.
“People who are not suffering from medical conditions or having breathing difficulties may use the handmade reusable face cover, particularly when they step out of their house. This will help in protecting the community at large,” a note from the Ministry said.
Last week, the office of India’s Principal Scientific Adviser made public a manual that explained how such face covers could be made and recommended that they be widely used. While the general recommendation by the World Health Organisation has been to avoid masks — as they could deplete supplies for health personnel — opinion has changed over concerns that the infection had spread widely and people were increasingly likely to catch it when outside.
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