COVID-19: What exactly is community transmission that India is so worried about?

It is the third phase of a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization

Published: Tuesday 24 March 2020

India's biggest worry is the unavoidable community transmission of novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2). So what exactly is community transmission?

It is the third of the four stages of a pandemic according to the World Health Organization. It happens when the virus begins to randomly affect people and their source of contact with it is not known. 

Community transmission can also be localised. If Mumbai has community transmission, Delhi will not necessarily get it. According to the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), community transmission is inevitable but there is no official word on it yet.

Currently, there are at least two COVID-19 cases whose travel history has not been traced till date. Could these cases be an indication of the beginning of community transmission?

One of the two cases in question is a 20-year-old male living in Tamil Nadu. He tested positive on March 21. However, the Union government has not been able to say as to where he caught the infection from. The state’s health minister C Vijay Bhaskar has described it as a ‘domestic case with no travel history’.

The second case is of a 41-year-old Pune woman who is now critical. She was confirmed positive on March 20. There is no history in her case as in the Tamil Nadu male’s, the district’s district magistrate has said. However, the government still denies that these are community transmission cases, saying their contract tracing is still on.

Globally, community transmission, other than China — the origin country of the novel coronavirus, is happening in Italy, Iran and South Korea. Among such non-originating countries, Italy has suffered the biggest blow of Covid-19.

That is the reason why India is locking down cities to avoid community transmission.

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