New Delhi: As many as 909 COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of such cases to 8,356 and the death toll to 273 in the country, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday, while asserting that the government is “extra prepared” if there is an exponential rise in the number of coronavirus patients.
Addressing a press briefing, Joint Secretary in the ministry Lav Agarwal said the government is expanding the COVID-19 testing capacity in state-run as well as private medical colleges.
“The total number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 8,356 and the death toll to 273. A total of 909 new cases and 34 deaths have been reported since Saturday. The good news is that 716 people have recovered and have been discharged so far. Seventy-four people have been cured since Saturday. The government is extra prepared if the number of cases rises exponentially,” he said.
“We are working on an urgent basis to expand the capacity for COVID-19 testing in government and private medical colleges across the country. Fourteen mentor institutes, including the AIIMS and NIMHANS, have been identified to mentor the medical colleges and expand the coronavirus testing capacity,” Agarwal added.
He said the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in China, Japan and Korea is a cause of concern and emphasised on the importance of social distancing, terming it the “social vaccine” against the dreaded virus.
“The recent resurgence of positive COVID-19 cases in China, Japan and Korea is a cause of concern for us too. We should, therefore, ensure that we continue to follow our containment and social-distancing measures as we have been doing so far. Irrespective of the lockdown, it is important that we adopt a behavioural change and focus on social distancing, as it is an important component of managing the infectious disease,” Agarwal said.
Briefing about the preparatory measures taken by the government, he said the focus is on increasing the capacity of the primary medical infrastructure, which includes dedicated hospitals, isolation beds, ICU beds and quarantine facilities.
“As of Sunday, while the requirement of beds for 8,356 cases is estimated to be 1,671 for 20 per cent of the confirmed cases with moderate to severe or critical clinical symptoms, the present availability of beds is 1,05,980 in 601 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals across the country. The number of isolation beds in these hospitals is being further augmented.
“Dedicated hospitals for management of COVID-19 patients have increasingly been set up across the country. Along with government hospitals, various private hospitals, public sector units, military hospitals and the Indian Railways are contributing to these efforts. The Ordnance Factory Board has manufactured specialised tents to augment the medical infrastructure in remote areas,” the official added.
Agarwal further said training the health staff through institutes of national importance such as the AIIMS and NIMHANS is also a focus area.
“Online training modules and webinars for ventilator management, clinical management, infection prevention control, bio-medical waste management and epidemiology have been organised by these institutions. To prepare the frontline medical workers, mock drills too have been held,” he said.
According to ICMR officials, a total of 1,86,906 samples have so far been tested across the country, of which 7,953 have been found to be positive for COVID-19.
“In the last five days, on an average, 15,747 samples were tested per day and 584 of those were found to be positive per day,” an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) official said at the press briefing.
Responding to a question on development of vaccines, he said, “There are 40 plus candidate vaccines that are under development but none of them has reached the next stage.”
The Health Ministry also informed that 20,000 train coaches will be converted into isolation wards.
“In the first phase, 5,000 coaches are being converted,” Agarwal said.
According to government spokesperson KS Dhatwalia, the Group of Ministers (GoM) has approved the release of hydroxychloroquine to 13 countries after an assessment of stocks.
“Some countries have requested India for the supply of HCQ. After making an assessment of the domestic requirements and keeping a buffer, the release of HCQ to 13 countries has been approved,” he said.