New Delhi: Even as the number of COVID-19 tests have increased in the month since the national lockdown was imposed, the average rate of positive cases has not changed much, said CK Mishra, chairperson of the empowered group on hospital availability, disease surveillance, testing and critical care.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, India has increased its testing 33 times, Mishra said. Even as it has reflected a rising number of cases, the average percentage of cases that test positive per day has remained at 4.4%, he added.
“The growth has not been exponential, but linear. Strategies have helped this contain to a particular level. We are more or less at the same places where we were a month prior to lockdown — 4.4% positive among those tested,” Mishra said at the government’s daily briefing on the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr Randeep Guleria, director at the Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said even as the recovery rate due to the infection is high, patients are facing unjustified stigma in society, which is causing delay in reporting of symptoms and eventual testing. Guleria said due to the stigma and panic attached to the infection, many patients are reaching late when they are breathless and it is increasing morbidity and mortality.
“Patients are currently facing a lot of challenges and stigma, which is not justified,” said Guleria. “A majority of them are actually becoming all right and coming out, they are actually our symbols of victory and hope and yet we have stigmatised them to a large extent, which is creating a huge problem and panic as far as society is concerned.”
Guleria said 80% of the patients getting infected only have mild illness and only 15% need oxygen therapy and 5% need ventilator support. However, due to the stigma, many patients who have Covid-19 or flu-like symptoms are not coming to healthcare facilities and because of that they are really breathless, he added.
Mishra also pointed out that the lockdown has been utilised to prepare for a surge in cases if the situation arises and the government has prepared a three-tier system of COVID-19 care centres, dedicated health centres, and dedicated hospitals. As of Thursday, the government has organised 1.94 lakh isolated beds for severe and critical cases, 24,644 intensive care unit beds, 12,371 ventilators, and 1.66 lakh isolation beds in care centres.
Since the lockdown was imposed, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has increased laboratory facilities for testing with the help of universities, research organisations and private labs. As per ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava, there are 325 labs — both public and private — involved in testing for COVID-19 cases.
Mishra said India has crossed the five lakh tests-mark and found over 20,000 positive cases. In comparison, after the same number of tests, Italy had recorded one lakh cases, United Kingdom 1.2 lakh cases, while the USA and Turkey recorded 80,000 cases each.
“This shows that our testing strategy has been focused, targeted and continues to expand,” he said. “This is an evolving strategy. We are learning everyday. Our strategy has to change as per the situation.”
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