Lockdown length utilised to ramp up India’s clinical infrastructure: Health Ministry

The lockdown period has been gainfully utilised to ramp up the health infrastructure in the country, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday, with senior health officials confirming that India is now planning to initiate a study on ‘behaviour of the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus in persons who have died after contracting the disease.’

7,740 dedicated COVID-19 health facilities in 483 districts identified, says Health Ministry

Autopsy in confirmed COVID-19 cases is not recommended by the Health Ministry and this research, to be conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, will be the first to be undertaken on a COVID-19 dead body. This is expected to give researchers an insight into how the virus behaves in a dead body, the manner in which it affects organs of the body etc.

Forensic autopsy

Said a senior health official: “We are at planning stage for this very vital exercise and it will be a multi-department enterprise. India in its guidelines has said that forensic autopsy should not be done in COVID-19 death cases as mortuary staff are exposed to potentially dangerous health risks due to organ fluids and secretions even after taking the highest precautions. It adds that autopsy procedure if undertaken are to be strictly limited to what is necessary for the research work concerned.”

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Meanwhile, the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 3,435 on Thursday, with 132 fatalities. The total number of cases stands at 1,12,359 with 5,609 new cases in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry. The number of active cases stood at 63,624, while 45,299 people have recovered, taking the recovery rate to 40.32% as per the Ministry.

“So far, 26,15,920 samples have been tested and 1,03,532 samples have been tested in the last 24 hours through 555 testing labs [391 in the government sector and 164 private labs],” noted the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Community survey

The ICMR, in collaboration with the Health Ministry and the National Centre for Disease Control, with support from State Health departments and key stakeholders, including WHO, is conducting a community based sero-survey to estimate the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Indian population.

ICMR has also recommended the TrueNat COVID-19 test stating that as the COVID-19 pandemic is expanding, there is a global shortfall of diagnostic supplies. “It is critical for countries to strengthen indigenous production of diagnostic material to ensure uninterrupted availability,” the ICMR said.

TrueNat assay

It added that in April this year an indigenous manufacturer developed TrueNat assay for screening of SARS-CoV-2, causing COVID-19. “The ICMR undertook successful validation of the E gene screening assay, following which TrueNat-based testing has been initiated by the States for SARS-CoV-2 detection. From April 2020 till date, more than 1.3 lakh screening tests have been conducted by States,” noted the release. 

The Health Ministry in its release said that currently the country has 3,027 dedicated COVID hospitals and COVID health centres, along with 7,013 COVID care centres.

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“Additionally, more than 2.81 lakh isolation beds, over 31,250 ICU beds, and 1,09,888 oxygen-supported beds have been identified in dedicated COVID hospitals and COVID health centres. Also, the Government of India has supplied 65.0 lakh PPE coveralls and 101.07 lakh N95 masks to the States. Nearly 3 lakh PPE coveralls and 3 lakh N95 masks are now being manufactured per day by domestic producers, although they were not produced in the country earlier,” noted the Ministry.

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