New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said almost 80% of the COVID-19 cases in India are asymptomatic or at best with very mild symptoms.
In an exclusive interview to IANS, the Health Minister said, “Even today, in almost 80% of the cases of COVID-19, which are being reported in India, the patients tend to exhibit either nil or mild symptoms. The patients are mostly contacts of confirmed cases. Interestingly, had it not been for our contact tracing efforts, and if left to their own in isolation, they may not have even remembered or reported their infection.”
Harsh Vardhan, who was recently elected the chief of WHO’s Executive Board, was answering a query on whether asymptomatic patients who are potential virus carriers and who can take the virus deeper into rural India are causing worry to the government. He said, “I am aware of WHO’s mention of some laboratory-confirmed cases that are truly asymptomatic. It is equally true, as on date, there has been no documented asymptomatic transmission.”
However, he added recently, more symptoms like headache, muscle pain, pink eye, loss of smell, or loss of taste, intense chills, rigors and sore throat have been included in the list of COVID-19 symptoms by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US. “It will require more studies before these symptoms are finally included in our list in India,” he quipped.
He said testing 1.3 billion people for COVID-19 is neither possible nor feasible.
Responding on India’s strategy and the status about testing, he said, “The current testing strategy is need-based and gives priority to individuals who are primarily at risk or have symptoms. It is revised regularly according to the evolving situation.”
About the testing data and capacity the Health Minister said, “As on May 27, our testing capacity is 1,60,000 per day and we have done 32,44,884 tests till date. On May 26, itself, we have conducted 1,15,229 tests. If for a moment, we talk of repeated testing of 1.3 billion population to curb the disease, you would appreciate that this is not only a resource expensive exercise but also neither possible nor feasible.”
He asserted from one laboratory at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune in the first week of February 2020, the number of facilities in the country have increased to a total of 624. This includes 435 government labs and 189 NABL-accredited private laboratories involved in testing at present.
In what appears to be a snub to the prediction made by AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Gularia about COVID pandemic peak, Vardhan said it’s “difficult” to make an assumption about “future scenarios of the disease”.
23 lakh people in quarantine: Govt
Nearly 23 lakh people, who have moved within the country or arrived from international destinations during the ongoing nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are currently in quarantine facilities arranged by states and union territories. While majority of the state governments and union territory administrations have made at least seven days' quarantine compulsory for anyone arriving in their jurisdiction, a few of them have opted for home quarantine for those reaching their administrative limits.
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