Headlines March 19, 2020
Coronavirus update – Not suppressing cases, says India
The Indian government has said that it is not underreporting or suppressing the actual number of coronavirus cases in India. This is after many experts voiced concerns about low testing. The number of coronavirus cases in India is 137, said the health ministry. Three persons have died.
Speaking to the media, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary at the Health Ministry said,.”As far as India is concerned, we are 100% transparent. We are following protocol. We don’t want to create panic. We don’t want to just test people for the sake of testing. We are constantly updating number of cases within an hour.”
Many have expressed concern that the numbers in India, which has the largest population in the world after China, are low because there is less testing as facilities are fewer. In India, those who have a cold, cough or fever but no travel history or no contact with travellers, are not tested.
The health ministry said under the guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), laboratory tests should be only offered when prescribed by a physician. The ICMR, which is the government’s main medical research body, had recommended that private laboratories offer COVID-19 testing free of cost.
Regarding the World Health Organisation (WHO)‘s recommendation to all countries to test, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said:
The WHO criteria is not country-specific. The WHO office in India told us that it is not a statement for a country like India which does not have community transmission. It applies to countries like those in Europe. We do not want to do indiscriminate testing. – Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research
Experts are recommending the model being followed in South Korea which has done over two lakh tests. Over 15,000 people are being tested there every day. India has tested 11,500 samples since 21 January at the rate of 500-700 each day.
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