Udayavni Special

COVID-19: Record 1-day increase in confirmed cases; Govt says outbreak under control

PTI, Apr 24, 2020, 8:40 PM IST

New Delhi: Nationwide cases of confirmed coronavirus infections rose on Friday by over 1,750 – the maximum for a day – to nearly 23,500 with several states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat detecting new patients, even as the government said the outbreak is under control and the tally could have reached one lakh by now without a nationwide lockdown.

Government officials also credited a robust surveillance network and various containment measures for the spread being “under control,” along with the lockdown, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi a month ago on March 24 in an address to the nation.

Addressing village panchayat heads and members through video conferencing, Modi on Friday said the coronavirus pandemic has taught the country “to be self-reliant and self-sufficient” and not look for solutions abroad, as he stressed that every village, district and state should be able to provide for its basic needs.

He also applauded rural India for its simple and motivating mantra of “Do Gaz Ki Doori” to popularise social distancing.

Separately, several medical experts said the prevailing restrictions have been crucial in preventing a situation similar to the US or Europe but cautioned that a “bigger challenge” awaits the country when it gradually moves towards exiting the nationwide lockdown.

Some scientists also warned that the trajectory of COVID-19 cases could have plateaued and might even fall for some weeks after the lockdown is lifted but India is likely to see a second wave in late July or August with a surge in the number of cases during the monsoon.

It looks apparent that the trajectory of daily new cases has reached a plateau and eventually it will take a downward fall, maybe for some weeks or even months, Samit Bhattacharya, associate professor at the Department of Mathematics, Shiv Nadar University, said.

Rajesh Sundaresan, professor at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc), said, “Once we return to normal activity levels, there is a chance that infection may begin to rise again. China is seeing this to some extent post easing of some restrictions on travel.”

According to a PTI tally of figures announced by various states and union territories, the number of confirmed cases has reached 23,577 with at least 743 deaths, while nearly 5,000 patients have recovered and have been discharged.

In its 5 PM update, the Union Health Ministry put the nationwide tally of confirmed cases at 23,452 – showing an increase of 1,752 since Thursday – along with 723 deaths.

The previous highest single-day increase was of 1,540 cases on April 20.

According to the ministry, the number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 17,915as 4,813 people have recovered and one patient has migrated, which translates into a recovery rate of 20.52 per cent. The total number of cases include 77 foreign nationals.

Since Thursday evening, at least 37 deaths have been reported, of which 14 fatalities are from Maharashtra, nine from Gujarat, three from Uttar Pradesh, two each from Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telengana and one from Karnataka, ministry data stated.

Overall, Maharashtra alone has reported 283 deaths, followed by 112 from Gujarat, 83 from Madhya Pradesh and 50 in Delhi.

A four-month-old baby girl became the youngest victim of COVID-19 in Kerala on Friday. She was admitted to the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode on April 21 with history of fever, cough, breathing difficulties and seizure after being treated at two other hospitals.

The new cases of confirmed infections included seven police personnel, including four women, in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The state on Friday announced a complete shutdown beginning Sunday in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and some other places, disallowing even grocery shops and fully curtailing the public movement.

The Union Home Ministry, in the meantime, flagged that the COVID-19 situation is especially serious in some major or emerging hotspot areas including Ahmedabad, Surat, Hyderabad and Chennai. It also said that violations of lockdown measures reported in some parts of the country pose a serious health hazard to public and may lead to the spread of COVID-19.

The Centre has sent 10 central teams for spot assessment of the COVID-19 hotspot districts across the country, including five new ones – Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat, Thane in Maharashtra, Hyderabad in Telangana and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Earlier, similar teams were sent for Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Jaipur in Rajasthan, besides two teams for West Bengal.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh separately directed the country’s top military brass to ensure that India’s adversaries do not get any opportunity to push their “evil design” by taking advantage of the country’s focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

Reviewing India’s military preparedness at a high-level meeting, Singh also asked the armed forces to avoid wasteful expenditure and make sure judicious utilisation of funds considering the downturn in the economy triggered by the pandemic.

Officials at the government’s daily press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, however, sounded confident that the fight against the deadly virus outbreak was progressing well and the nationwide lockdown announced by Modi was a timely step.

Niti Aayog member V K Paul said the lockdown has been effective in slowing the rate at which COVID-19 cases is doubling in India, and it now stands at 10 days, as against three days on March 21.

Paul, who is also heading one of the empowered groups set up to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, said the curve has begun to flatten.

“Had we not taken the decision of clamping the nationwide lockdown, we would have had around 1 lakh COVID-19 cases by now, as per a reasonable estimate. Now, the outbreak is under control,” he said.

Officials, however, said these projections are based on the growth pattern at a particular time.

Director of National Centre for Disease Control S K Singh that surveillance has been the country’s primary weapon in the fight against novel coronavirus.

“We started our surveillance mechanism even before the first case was reported in India. This played an important role in helping us contain the spread of the infection,” Singh said.

He said around 9.45 lakh suspected coronavirus cases are under the surveillance network at present and upon detection of symptoms of the infection, samples are taken from these people for testing.

Singh said the surveillance network has been set up at district level as well, so that household survey, quarantine and isolation are done as part of cluster containment plan.

Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said in the last 28 days, as many as 15 districts have had no new case, while there are 80 districts in the country that have not reported any new coronavirus case in the last 14 day.

In Delhi, where more than 800 people have recovered so far including at least 723 in six days till Thursday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the plasma therapy trial conducted on four patients here has yielded “very encouraging” initial results, giving a ray of hope to seriously-ill coronavirus patients.

Karnataka is also likely to start the Convalescent Plasma Therapy (CPT) for COVID-19 patients, who are critical, from Saturday, state’s medical education minister K Sudhakar said.

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