The statement came even as the country recorded as many as 1,593 cases and 68 deaths on Friday, taking the total tally to 24,344 and the toll to 776.
The government said the disease has been brought under control and that the positive impact of restrictions will be visible in the coming days on the growth trajectory, before the lockdown is lifted.
“Our analysis shows that lockdown has helped in reducing the doubling rate of covid-19, saved lives and prevented harm to the nation,” said Dr V.K. Paul, member of the government think tank NITI Aayog and chairman of empowered group 1 for Covid response. He added instead of around 23,000 cases in India today, the number could have been around 100,000 but for the lockdown.
To be sure, India’s testing rate at 384 per 100,000 population is among the lowest in the world.
The government said it has checked the virus’s spread, augmented testing and improved preparedness during the lockdown. Surveillance, too, had played a major role.
“The public has also brought in a massive behaviour change in this period. After the Janata Curfew and lockdown, we had already created an environment of social distancing by putting in place travel restrictions,” said Paul.
According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), around 945,000 people are currently under surveillance for suspected coronavirus infection. “Due to the lockdown, the government could keep the infected population away from the susceptible population by which there has been a stabilization in the growth of covid-19 cases,” said Dr Sujeet Singh, director, NCDC.
According to the health ministry, as of Friday, 15 districts that earlier had cases had not reported any fresh coronavirus infections in the last 28 days and, thus, have been declared green zones.
Three new districts added to this list on Friday are Durg and Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh, and Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh. An additional 80 districts in 23 states and UTs have not reported any new cases in the past 14 days. The government also said 4,748 people have recovered from covid-19, taking the recovery rate to 20.57% for India.
“Our testing strategy has stood the test of time and the volume of testing has been adequate and the proportion of positive cases has not increased even though the testing has increased manifold. There shouldn’t be any hidden spike in cases and the disease is in control,” said Paul.
Mahendra K. Verma, professor in the department of physics, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)Kanpur, said, “The daily count of the past five days ranging in 924 to 2013, is showing significant fluctuations. This is due to the new tests being performed. Daily death count, too, is showing similar trend. The daily new cases should decrease for the curve to flatten. The data is not showing such signs at present.”
“The six metros have large number of cases. Mumbai and Delhi are struggling. Confinement of infected and suspected individuals may be key factor in near future for which more tests will be required,” he said.
Public health experts said a careful withdrawal of the lockdown will help in curtailing caseload.
Dr Anita Arora, director of medical operations at Fortis Healthcare, said while the numbers may not show an improvement, morbidity rather than mortality is a concern. “What remains to be seen will be what happens if and when we ‘exit’ the lockdown. Definitely a sudden and complete exit will be disastrous,” said Arora.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday interacted with state health ministers and health secretaries via video to review the preparedness and action taken. He urged the states to focus on surveillance, early identification of cases and proper clinical management to ensure the patients get timely treatment.