Working to conduct rigorous contact-tracing: Govt

NEW DELHI: The Union health ministry on Saturday said it is focusing on high disease-burden hotspots and working in tandem with states to implement rigorous contact-tracing, community surveillance and containment strategies as the number of novel coronavirus cases crossed the 900-mark in the country.
Joint secretary in the ministry Lav Agarwal said 149 new Covid-19 cases, including two deaths, have been reported since Friday.
Combined efforts are on to ensure 100 per cent lockdown and that social distancing gets implemented, he said at a press briefing on the current Covid-19 situation in India.
The number of coronavirus cases climbed to 918 in India on Saturday, while the death toll remained at 19, according to the ministry
The government is working with states on health infrastructure preparedness and the focus is on having dedicated Covid-19 hospitals and blocks in every state, Agarwal said.
He said arrangements are being made to ramp up isolation and Intensive Care Unit beds and other required logistics.
The joint secretary said 17 states have so far started work on this and doctors are being provided online training by their counterparts at the AIIMS New Delhi on the management of Covid-19 patients.
“A series of online trainings for nursing officers will be conducted by AIIMS in the next 5-7 days. This includes training in caring for patients and suspected cases of Covid-19,” he said.
Agarwal said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday inaugurated a 24×7 national tele-consultation centre at the AIIMS through which doctors in other hospitals and medical colleges will be provided clinical guidance on managing Covid-19 patients.
“We have been pre-emptive and graded in our approach and had anticipated the situation much before, and went for a lockdown when we were getting limited cases of local transmission while other countries took steps much later,” he said, adding that results will be known only after a few days.
Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at the ICMR Raman R Gangakhedkar said all patients with severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) are being tested for the coronavirus infection, according to the revised guidelines of Covid-19.
Refuting the possibility of community transmission, Gangakhedkar said that they have just started testing SARI cases.
“There are some sporadic instances where people are not revealing their exposure history but their numbers are not significant that we take it that the virus is spreading rapidly,” Gangakhedkar said.
“Till the time we see a significant number of cases to indicate community transmission, let us not over interpret things, he said. Over India’s testing capacity, he said said 111 government laboratories are currently functional across the country and with the private sector being roped in, it has been increased.
“As of now we are utilising only 30 per cent of our capacity. 44 laboratories have so far been given approval for testing and 400 people have been tested in private sector.
“More than 5 lakh probes that were imported from US have arrived, which means we can test an additional 5 lakh people. More so, labs have still have reagents to test more than one lakh patients,” Gangakhedkar said.
Responding to a question over the use of hydroxychloroquine, he said, “So far we know that there has been a reduction in the viral-load in Covid- 19 patients who have been given the drug.”
Gangakhedkar said the drug was being given as a preventive medication to healthcare workers and household contacts looking after a positive case and the data of the people who are being given the medicine will analysed to come out with a concrete conclusion.
“It is not recommended for everyone,” he said.

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