Less than 1 percent of Indian population exposed to COVID-19: official study

New Delhi, Jun 11 (efe-epa).- Less than 1 percent of the over 1.3 billion citizens of India have been exposed to the new coronavirus according to a study released on Thursday by the country’s health authorities, which denied that there was community transmission of the disease despite the case curve not getting flattened.

“India is such a large country and the prevalence is so low, (…) less than 1 % in small districts. In the urban areas it might be little over 1% and in the containment areas it is slightly higher,” Balram Bhargava, the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – the apex body handling the government’s Covid-19 response – said in a press conference.

As per the results of a serosurvey made public by Bhargava on Thursday, just around 0.73 percent of the general population had been exposed to the wire, as per tests carried out on 26,400 people in 83 districts of the country in May.

Although India had reported around 280,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and over 8,100 deaths by Thursday morning, the study put the infection fatality rate in the country at around 0.08 percent.

It also found that the probability of getting infected was 1.09 times higher in urban areas and 1.89 times higher in urban slums, which house millions of people in the major Indian cities.

Based on the data, Bhargava insisted that India was “definitely not into community transmission” of the disease, adding that there was a debate on the term and it had not been clearly defined by the World Health Organization.

“We have to continue with our strategy of testing, tracing, tracking and quarantine and continue with containment measures we have found successful so far. The guard should not be let down,” the ICMR chief warned.

India has carried out more than 5.2 million Covid-19 tests so far, according to data provided by the council.

Bhargava said that health authorities were carrying out more than 150,000 tests across the country every day and were capable of increasing it to 200,000 per day.

The test results show that in recent days the spread of the disease has accelerated, with around 10,000 daily cases being discovered during the past week, a rate which was set to make India overtake Spain and the United Kingdom by Friday and become the fourth most affected country behind the United States, Brazil and Russia.

However, the number of people cured of the disease – 1,41,028 – exceeded the number of active cases – 137,448 – for the first time on Wednesday.

The Indian government had on Monday lifted strict lockdown measures enforced since late March, having already eased some restrictions in May in the first phase of opening up the economy, which had been nearly paralyzed for two months.

Restaurants, shopping malls and religious centers were allowed to open from this week, although strict security and distancing measures and limits on gatherings remain in place.

In the second phase of lifting the lockdown – the date for which hasn’t been announced yet – authorities are set to reopen educational institutions, while the third phase would include resumption of international flights and metro train services and reopening of cinema halls, cultural centers and sports stadiums with a large capacity.

The Indian ministry of foreign affairs said on Thursday that it had evacuated 165,375 citizens stranded abroad, out of the total 399,081 Indians who had sought repatriation, adding that evacuations were set to continue. EFE-EPA


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