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India far from achieving herd immunity against Covid-19, ICMR probing reinfection cases: Harsh Vardhan

On emerging evidence that Covid-19 infection not only impacts the lungs but other organs too, Harsh Vardhan said the Ministry of Health had already set up expert committees to look into these facets of the infection.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 27, 2020 9:21:31 pm
First in line for Covid vaccine: those at high risk, exposureUnion Health Minister Harsh Vardhan during 'Sunday Samvaad' -- an interaction with his social media followers.

Citing ICMR’s second sero-survey, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Sunday said India was still far from achieving herd immunity against novel coronavirus and the ICMR was “actively researching” on reports of reinfection.

The first sero-survey of May 2020 had revealed that the nationwide prevalence of novel coronavirus infection was only 0.73 per cent.

During an interaction with his social media followers on ‘Sunday Samvaad’ platform, the minister said, “The soon to be released second sero-survey indications are that we are far from having achieved any kind of herd immunity which necessitates that all of us should continue following Covid appropriate behaviour.”

Vardhan also cautioned that the sero-survey report should not create a sense of complacency among the people.  “ICMR is actively investigating and researching reports of reinfection and although the number of reinfection cases is negligible at this moment, the government is fully seized of the importance of the matter,” he further said.

On emerging evidence that Covid-19 infection not only impacts the lungs but other organs too, Vardhan said the Ministry of Health had already set up expert committees to look into these facets of the infection.

Read | Unlock 5.0 guidelines: What further relaxations we may see in October

Dispelling fears regarding phased re-opening of schools, the health minister advised on proper protocol to be followed while visiting public places. “The pandemic can only be fought when the government and society work in tandem,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.

On the wide usage of investigational therapies such as plasma therapy and Remdesivir drug for combating COVID-19, Vardhan said the government had issued regular advisories regarding their rational usage and private hospitals have also been advised against routine use of these therapies. “The doctors in the states and UTs are being made aware of this through webinars and tele-consultation session of AIIMS, New Delhi,” he said.

Vardhan stated that states/UTs have also been advised to lower the prices of COVID-19 tests. “In the early days of the pandemic, as the kits were imported, the price tended to be high. But now, supplies of testing kits have stabilised and domestic production of these kits have commenced,” the minister said.

The minister also talked about India’s two-pronged strategy of incentivising production and creation of common infrastructure for high-quality medicines and medical devices to make the country self-reliant. He said the government was ensuring that there was import substitution in this sector.

Vardhan said in the last few months since the outbreak of the pandemic, India had made rapid strides in the manufacturing of ventilators, PPEs, testing kits and many medical devices.

Responding to questions on strengthening the public health system, Harsh Vardhan talked about the Union government’s commitment to “increase the public healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.15 per cent to 2.5 per cent by 2025, which will mean an actual increase of 345 per cent over the current share in this short period of time”.

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