At 3.8 cases per million, India’s rate of infection still fairly low: Union health minister Harsh Vardhan | India News


NEW DELHI: Social distancing and lockdown are potent “social vaccines” against the Covid-19 pandemic that has engulfed over 200 countries, health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday, detailing the gover nment’s focus on 133 hotspot districts as a critical component of a concerted containment strategy.
“I can state with utmost confidence that in terms of data or statistics on Covid-19, India is much better placed than any other country,” the minister said while addressing an international online conference on Covid-19 organised by Bennett University. He added that India has reported a fairly low rate of infection at 3.8 cases per million, compared to much higher percentages in most other countries.

At present, cases are doubling every 4.5 days, and a majority of the districts in the country are unaffected, Vardhan said.

Social distancing can push back disease: Minister
Stressing on social distancing, he said a vaccine shot (whenever it becomes available) could save one individual at a time but a “social vaccine” would help rescue whole populations and push back a disease that was a unique challenge to the entire world.

The approach to 133 districts was about an “aggressive containment strategy” divided into tackling large outbreaks and cluster containment, he said. This was aimed at stamping out the infection in areas where it had gained ground and was a threat in terms of larger transmission. While there was a sharp focus on hotspots, India had an effective monitoring system with more than seven lakh people under rigorous surveillance, he added.
The minister also urged the country to stand united with frontline health workers who were working in spite of the risk of themselves getting infected. He asked people to name and shame those misbehaving or attacking healthcare workers, doctors or nurses. He said such incidents were painful and should be condemned by all.

Vardhan said surveillance had been key right from the beginning when India’s case zero, a medical student who returned from Wuhan, was tracked to find 162 contacts, including people in proximity during flights and train journeys. Active contact tracing and a surveillance mechanism developed over the years was utilised to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus that came through foreign travellers, he said.
The government took proactive measures including active screening, community surveillance, capacity building of ASHA workers and upgrading health infrastructure which helped India reduce the infection rate, he said. It also issued various advisories including those on travel, testing and even use of masks. These advisories were revised from time to time to upgrade them according to the evolving scenario, he said.
“We are keeping a close watch on everything that is happening in other countries and even within the country. The situation is being regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level of the government — by the PM and by the cabinet secretary along with others like the group of ministers headed by me,” Vardhan said.
He said India’s response was proactive so far and proper observance of lockdown and implementation of social distancing was the way to combat the disease. The minister also assured that the government had made adequate arrangements for oxygen support, ventilators, isolation beds and ICU facilities even though 85% of cases were very mild or mild and would not require such facilities.



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