Over 9 lakh persons are under active COVID-19 surveillance in India, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday, as the total number of cases reached 23,452. The death toll stood at 723.

The country registered another biggest single-day spike with over 1,752 positive COVID cases since Thursday. India currently has 17,915 active cases, while 4,813 people have recovered, which puts the recovery rate at 20.57%, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said.

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Separately, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in a statement, said the situation in emerging and major hotspots, including Ahmedabad, Surat, Hyderabad and Chennai, is serious. The statement added that violations of lockdown measures reported in some parts of the country pose a serious health hazard to the public and may lead to the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking at the daily press briefing, Joint Secretary in the MHA Punya Salila Srivastva noted that the Centre has sent five new Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) to Gujarat, Telangana and Tamil Nadu to assess the situation.

IMCTs are already in Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Jaipur in Rajasthan and Kolkata and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.

According to reports from the State Health Departments, the total number of cases in the country stood at 24, 494, with 18,266 active cases. The nationwide death toll was 781, an increase of 62 fatalities since Thursday.

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The Health Ministry said there were 15 districts that have not reported any fresh case since the past 28 days. These include three new districts — Durg and Rajnandgaon in Chattisgarh and Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh. “Further, 80 districts from 23 States/UTs have not reported any new cases since the last 14 days,” Mr. Agarwal said.

Reiterating that the lockdown had helped India keep its COVID-19 numbers low, Chairman of the Empowered Group-1, V.K. Paul, noted that this “big decision has proved to be very timely and beneficial.”

“Our projections were showing that we would have nearly a lakh cases by now without the lockdown instead of the 23,000 cases that we are at currently. Lockdown has changed that figure. Nation-wide lockdown helped take us away from the exponential growth curve and contained growth of COVID-19 cases,” he said.

Dr. Paul added that India with its surveillance system ensured that the government’s effort to control the disease became a Jan Andolan.

“Surveillance has been a great strength in containing COVID-19. Besides containing spread, augmenting testing, improving preparedness, the nation has brought about a massive behavioural change through a Jan Andolan. If we look at three day average our doubling time is now 10 days and we will do even better than this,” noted Dr. Paul.

Sujit Kumar Singh, director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) giving his presentation on how surveillance is being used to gather epidemiological intelligence and take required measures accordingly to contain the COVID situation said that currently in India actively monitoring 9,45,000 people.

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“Surveillance network has been set up at district level as well, so that household survey, quarantine and isolation are done as part of cluster containment plan. It is because of the combined efforts that the early infection rates were reduced,” he said.

He added that starting from stopping of international flights to stop transmission of infection from abroad, graded steps including lockdown were taken to halt internal chain of transmission of the infection.

“During the initial period of lockdown, doubling time of cases decreased since people infected already were being detected; later it improved as lockdown put a brake on the spread of the infection. Our seven day doubling time increased from 4.2 in April 6 has gone up to 8.6 days on April 20. We had started our surveillance mechanism even before the first COVID-19 case was reported in India. This has played an important role in helping us contain the spread of the infection,” Mr. Singh said.

The Health Ministry on Friday added that through a graded, pre-emptive and pro-active approach, India is taking several steps along with the States/UTs for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19.

“Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday interacted with all the State Health Minister and Health Secretaries through a video conference to review the preparedness and actions taken for management of COVID-19. He urged the States to focus on surveillance, house-to-house active case finding, early identification of cases and proper clinical management to ensure that the patients get timely treatment and mortality is reduced,” Mr. Agarwal said.

He added that states health ministers have been directed to personally review the measures being undertaken against stigma and discrimination of doctors and other frontline health workers, as also patients who have COVID-19 or those that have recovered.

“CovidIndiaSeva twitter handle is also helping through real-time authentic health and public information provided by trained experts to swiftly answer the questions of citizens,” added Mr. Agarwal.

Union Health Ministry has on Friday also written to States/UTs to ensure that all the facilities under National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) remain fully functional in public interest and ensure that the diagnosis and treatment of TB patients goes without any interruption notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

“The comprehensive directives includes providing one month of drugs at a time to all TB patients either newly diagnosed or currently on treatment. This includes both public and private sector TB patients, including drug-resistant TB patients. States/UTs are to ensure that patients with or without ID receive medicines at a heath facility convenient to them to prevent any form of interruption to treatment,” a Health Ministry release said.

The Ministry has added that even if the TB patient is unable to approach the health facility, arrangements should be made by the facility to deliver drugs at the doorstep of the patient wherever possible.

“Considering the challenges posed due to COVID-19 pandemic and lock-down, we have issued orders to ensure sufficient quantity of drugs are procured and adequate supplies of drugs are available. TB toll-free number (1800-11-6666) can be used by patients in case they face any difficulty,” added the release.



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