28 people tested positive in India for COVID-19: Harsh Vardhan

16 out of them Italian nationals, says Union health minister

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Wednesday 04 March 2020

A total of 28 people in India have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Harsh Vardhan said on March 4, 2020.

“Three of these are from Kerala. They have been treated and are at home right now. One person is from Delhi. He has infected six more who had gone to Agra,” the minister said during a press conference in the national capital.

One Italian was infected in Jaipur. He infected 14 others, who had been sent to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police's (ITBP) quarantine facility in Chhawla near Delhi, the minister added. Besides infecting the group of 14, the virus also got transmitted to his wife and the Indian driver. 

One person had already tested positive in Telangana.

While the Italians are being kept in an isolation ward at Safadarajng hospital, the others are being treated in the respective states. 

The minister said the government was trying to repatriate Indian citizens from Iran. “But before that, India is trying to create a lab there so that they can be investigated for the virus first and then made to travel to India. One scientist from India has already reached. Three more are going tonight,” he said. 

But how much can Indian labs test? Despite being repeatedly asked about the number of kits the Indian labs had, Vardhan evaded the answer. He said, “We will test whatsoever patients come.”

Later, he qualified 25,000 samples could be tested on a daily basis.

Vardhan added that currently, 15 goverment labs under the Indian Council of Medical Research were engaged in testing. They could go up to 50, if needed. 

“We have requested all hospitals in Delhi to develop good quality isolation wards, in order to stay prepared if more cases of coronavirus are suspected in the national capital,” Vardhan said.

He claimed that his ministry's officials had already toured various states and were confident that they had enough isolation wards and ICU beds. However, he did not qualify what that ‘enough’ was although he hastened to add that assessments were still going on as to how many were needed.

This is significant as all studies done globally suggested that out of all those hospitalised for COVID-19, 30-40 per cent required ICU care with ventilators, medical oxygen, etc. 

The minister also informed that while passengers coming from only 12 countries were being screened till now, patients coming from across the globe would be part of universal screening which was being done through thermal scanners. 

The thermal scanners do not necessarily asses COVID-19 susceptibility because they only alert about rise in the body temperature that can happen due to any infection, and not just COVID-19. 

What to do if you suspect yourself of symptoms? Do not rush to any private lab in the first place. They have no kits to test COVID-19. Go to a doctor. If he asses a possible COVID case, he would recommend a test which can only be done at the designated goverment labs. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already announced that he would refrain from Holi festivities to avoid crowding that may exacerbate the spread of the virus. Asked whether Vardhan would suggest people to do the same, Vardhan said, Who is more important to suggest anything in the country other than the PM.”

Regarding schools’ closure, he said, “We do not recommend that at the moment but big social gatherings must be avoided.” It is pertinent to mention that China and many other countries cancelled all social gathering days within virus spread exacerbated.

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