Three more deaths of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, including a 38-year-old man, were reported on Sunday — one each in Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra — taking the toll to seven, the highest in a day so far.
While the total number of cases climbed to 360, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) maintained that there is no community transmission so far. Dr Balram Bhargava, ICMR Director General and Secretary, Health Research, said a lockdown is the most effective way to break the chain of transmission.
In Mumbai, a 63-year-old businessman, with underlying conditions of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, died Saturday night.
According to local authorities, the businessman didn’t have any history of travel abroad or contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient. He had travelled to Surat and returned by train earlier this month.
While he first reported fever about 13 days ago, he was hospitalised with acute respiratory distress on March 19. His condition remained critical, and he was put on ventilator support. His nasal swab tested positive on Saturday. He died later at night.
His wife has also tested positive. Local officials are trying to trace his movement and contacts. “So far we have not managed to find a confirmed case who came in contact with him,” a civic official said.
“We are not calling it community transmission yet. We will first investigate to find a close contact who may have transferred the virus,” Anup Kumar Yadav, Director, National Health Mission, Maharashtra, said.
In Patna, a 38-year-old man who died Saturday was found to be COVID-19 positive. So far, all the deaths in the country have been of senior citizens.
The man, a resident of Munger, had returned from Qatar on March 13. He was admitted to AIIMS-Patna on March 20 with “acute renal complications”. He had earlier gone to Kolkata for treatment.
“The patient died on Saturday morning, but his report testing positive for COVID-19 arrived today,” Bihar Principal Secretary (Health) Sanjay Kumar said.
AIIMS-Patna Medical Superintendent C M Singh said: “He was being treated for acute renal complications. As he had travel history, he was also tested for COVID-19. He was kept in the isolation ward.”
In Gujarat, a 67-year-old man who had tested positive died at a hospital in Surat. The man did not have any history of travel abroad, but had recently visited Delhi and Jaipur.
He was admitted to hospital on March 17 with several complications related to asthma. He tested positive on March 21.
“One death was reported today of an elderly person with comorbidities in Maharashtra; the total toll so far is 5. We are getting details of the Patna case,” Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry, said at his daily briefing. Later, in the evening, the Ministry updated the toll to include the other two deaths.
In an apparent retort to WHO’s prescription of “test test test”, Bhargava said: “We have 111 government labs and 60 private labs are registering with us. They have thousands of collection centres. Indiscriminate testing is not to be done. I repeat, isolation, isolation, isolation.”
Six private laboratories have already received approval — Thyrocare, Suburban Diagnostics, Metropolis Healthcare, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre (all in Mumbai), Unipath Specialty Laboratory in Ahmedabad, and Neuberg Anand Reference Laboratory in Bengaluru.
States have been asked to earmark separate hospitals for COVID-19 patients and 1,200 ventilators have been ordered in preparation.
In reply to a question, Dr R R Gangakhedkar, head of epidemiology and infectious diseases, ICMR, said: “We are not in a position till now to say community transmission is happening, we will get some impression by Tuesday through the modelling studies.”
Agarwal said the focus on social isolation is because there is local transmission and it is important to break the chain of transmission.
In a statement, ICMR said: “A total of 18,127 samples from 17,237 individuals have been tested for SARS-CoV2 as on 22nd March 2020 6:00 PM IST. A total of 396 individuals have been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases.”
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