New Delhi: The Health Ministry on Tuesday reeled out statistics to claim India is among the countries having the lowest COVID-19 fatality rate but ruled out complete end of the lockdowns since the battle against the dreaded virus has to go on as India won't be immune from it in the near future.
Its joint secretary Lav Srivastava told a Press conference in Delhi that India's fatality rate has come down from 3% to 2.87% compared to the world's rate of 4%. The average fatality rate per lakh the world over is 4.5 per lakh population while it is 0.3 deaths per lakh in India. At the same time, he said the recovery rate is also improving to 41.61.
He factored this success to an early lockdown, social distancing and increase of the health infrastructure. As ICMR director general Balram Bhargav pointed out India had just one lab in Pune for testing but the ramp up resulted in 612 labs testing in more than one shift, 480 of which are the government labs and remaining private.
In reply to a question, Dr Bhargav remained firm on the advisory issued by the ICMR on May 22 for extending use of HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine) despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) suspending its trial as COVID-19 treatment over the safety concerns after a Lancet study of 96,032 hospital patients found that the anti-malarial medication Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine did not benefit but it had a high risk of death and heart problems.
He said the advisory extending use of the malarial drug to all asymptomatic health care and frontline workers as also asymptomatic household contacts of confirmed cases was on the study of the biological probability of advantages. He said nobody should take it on an empty stomach but better take with meal 400 mg twice a day on day 1 and 400 mg once weekly for the next three to seven weeks.
Srivastava also underlined that 50% of the fatalities were of the elderly persons and 73% of persons suffering from other diseases. He said there are lesser fatalities if there is timely identification of the patient and as such efforts are on to reach out to persons at the early stage of getting infected.
HCQ trial: Mixed opinion on WHO’s temporary pause
With the WHO deciding to temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, doctors in India are divided in their opinions over the repercussions the move might have on the strategy to combat the pandemic. While some experts feel after the WHO decisions, country's medical centres will have to take HCQ and chloroquine our of the treatment regimen of COVID-19 patients, others opined it is "not binding" for India to oblige with the decision of the world body. "The Lancet study found out that people who were given HCQ or chloroquine or, combination of azithromycin with HCQ or chloroquine, matching with other factors, ran the risk of having higher mortality due to cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat),” lung surgeon Dr Arvind Kumar said.