From Our Bureau                       

17th April 2020

An increase of 1,007 new cases and 23 new deaths has been reported on Friday, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 13,387 and deaths to 437 deaths due to COVID-19 in the country. As many as 1,749 persons have been cured/ discharged after recovery so far. Before the lockdown, India’s doubling rate was about 3 days. For the past seven days, the doubling rate is 6.2 days even as 1,919 facilities with 1,73,746 isolation beds and 21,806 ICU beds are available for meeting any surge in COVID-19 cases, according to the latest update from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 

Several steps for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 are being taken by Government of India along with the States/Union Territories. These are being regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level.

The 12th meeting of Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 was held on Friday, under the chairpersonship of Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare. A detailed discussion was held by GoM on the impact of extended lockdown and to create a further roadmap. GoM also reviewed the efforts by Science & Technology institutions to deal with COVID-19 in diagnosis, vaccines, drugs, hospital equipment accessories and general wellness.

Department of Science & Technology, Department of Bio-Technology, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Department of Atomic Energy (DEA) and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are working together to create new rapid and accurate diagnostics that may give results within 30 minutes, to augment testing capacity through their 30 labs, to develop innovative pooling strategies to boost the number of people that can be tested, to ensure indigenous synthesis of critical components that are limiting domestic test kit production, to increase viral sequencing, which can help in epidemiology and to identify potentially important mutations.

Progress is also reported on vaccines development spanning inactivated virus, antibodies to major antigens, monoclonal and RNA based vaccines. Convalescent plasma therapy has also been initiated on some sites.

The Government is working with global partners to ensure that effective vaccines can be developed, and made available as soon as possible. India is a participant in the SOLIDARITY trial of the World Health Organization, through which the effectiveness of these therapies is being determined. Scientific task forces are evaluating existing approved drugs and repurpose them for COVID-19. CSIR has progressed into an indigenous synthesis of multiple promising anti-viral molecules such as Umifenovir, Favipiravir, Phyto pharmaceuticals and leads from traditional medical systems are also being explored in parallel along with Ministry of AYUSH.

Production of ancillary support devices such as personal protective equipment, oxygen concentrators and ventilators by CSIR engineering labs is being augmented by indigenous designs of Sree Chitra Tiurumalai Institute of Medical Science and Technology (SCTIMST) under DST.

Indigenous manufacturing of RT-PCR kits had started and 10 lakh kits per month will be produced from May 2020. Rapid Antibody detection kits will also start manufacturing with a capacity of 10 lakh kits per month by May 2020. 5 lakh Rapid Antibody test kits are distributed in all States and Districts on the basis of high case burden.

The present ventilator manufacturing capacity is 6,000 ventilators per month. Necessary efforts in areas of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines are being monitored on a war footing by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Additionally, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has shared forecasting tools with States/District administrators for better planning of infrastructure across different COVID facilities based on the assessment of caseloads.

Cumulatively, 1,919 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals have been identified at both Centre and State level which includes: 672 Dedicated COVID Hospitals (DCH) (with 1,07,830 isolation beds and 14,742 ICU beds) and 1,247 Dedicated COVID Health Centres (DCHC) (with total of 65,916 isolation beds  and  7,064 ICU beds). Hence, a total of 1,919 facilities having 1,73,746 isolation beds and 21,806 ICU beds are available.

Before the lockdown, India’s doubling rate was about 3 days. For the past seven days, the doubling rate is 6.2 days. 19 States/UTs (Kerala, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Ladakh, Himachal, Chandigarh,  Puducherry, Bihar, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, UP, Karnataka, J&K, Punjab, Assam, Tripura) are presently showing a higher doubling rate, which is better than the national average, which reflects that rate of increase of cases in these places has been reduced to some extent.

An average Growth Factor of 1.2 since 1st April  2020 as compared to 2.1 in the two weeks proceeding that (15th March to 31st March) is observed, which is about a 40 percent decline (2.1-1.2)/2.1 in Growth Factor. (eom)

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