India’s premier medical research lab Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday ruled out the possibility of community transmission (Stage-III) of coronavirus in India, stating that it tested 826 random samples of people with influenza-like illness, none of which tested positive.
This announcement comes when Indian Prime Minister is set to address the nation later in the day to discuss issues specific to coronavirus and talk about measures to contain its spread.
Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of ICMR has revealed that India is still in stage-II pertaining only to local transmission of the infection.
“Currently there are 72 functional laboratories and ICMR has decided to intensify testing by expanding the network of its laboratories,” Bhargava said.
ICMR pointed out that immediate travel restrictions imposed on people, quarantine norms and screening at airports have contained the social spread of the infection.
The statement released by the organisation said, "ICMR has initiated sentinel surveillance to detect community transmission of COVID19 since February 15. The surveillance sites have been scaled up from 16 sites till Feb 29, 2020 to 51 sites by March 15, 2020."
As the second-most populated country in the world at 1.3 billion, India has been in the spotlight for how it tackles the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, The New York Times wrote a long piece speculating over how the number of confirmed cases is so low in India and attracted criticism on social media for “looking down” on the country.
Why are you guys like that? If it's not Africa its now India— Ⓘⓢⓐⓐⓒ Ⓝⓙⓔⓝⓖⓐ (@Gzaxs) March 17, 2020
Many have, however, expressed disbelief over the authenticity of the Indian data on the confirmed cases of COVID-19 and claimed that the Modi government failed to launch screening early enough.
According to media reports, India has one of the lowest testing rate at 5 per million. This is much lower than in countries such as South Korea, which has emerged as an outlier with bringing down number of confirmed cases. It has tested more than 270,000 people and has been carrying out 4,099 tests per million, according to the latest figures. Similarly, Hong Kong has been testing 2,134 per million inhabitants.
India has been attracting criticism for not testing more people. Currently, only those who have returned from abroad or have come in contact with confirmed cases of infection are eligible to get tested.
Coronavirus is gradually spreading its roots in India with the number of cases increasing day-by-day. While three people have already lost their lives to the infection, the government has registered 148 confirmed cases in the country – the majority of whom have returned from an epidemic-hit country.