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Early signs of stage-III coronavirus in India

NEW DELHI: India has entered the third or community transmission stage of COVID-19 outbreak despite a 21-day lockdown enforced earlier this week by the Union government, official sources said. “We have detected early signs of community transmission as at least three patients without any international travel history or contact history have been found to be infected,” a top official in the Indian Council of Medical Research said. “These cases are in high viral density area with one case in Pune, Maharashtra. All the data is being analysed now to understand the extent of the outbreak’s progression. It’s obvious now that community transmission could not be stopped by any means,” he added.

The admission came as the country registered the highest jump in positive cases in a day. India now has 918 cases. The total number of confirmed cases stood at 724 on Friday morning. The detection of community transmission, authorities explained, came as now all patients of severe acute respiratory illnesses (SARI), hospitalized across the country, are being tested for Covid-19, apart from symptomatic travellers who have returned from abroad in the recent past, close contacts of those who have tested positive and healthcare workers. In the daily press briefing of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a senior ICMR official conceded that signals of community transmission of Covid- 19 have been detected but refused to give specific numbers.

“There are some sporadic cases of Covid-19 where the patients do not have travel or contact history but those numbers are too few so it cannot be said that there is widespread community transmission yet,” said Dr R R Gangakhedkar, chief epidemiologist with the ICMR. “Sometimes, patients do not remember their exposure history and there have been instances where some patients even try to hide travel history,” he added. Infectious disease experts who have been insisting for some time that community transmission has already started in India said the government should be more transparent and upfront in a public health emergency situation.

“It is not an indictment of the government that community transmission has happened as it is an inevitable progression of the outbreak and I am happy that they are admitting that now,” said Dr Shahid Jameel, senior virologist and the chief executive officer of Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance.

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