Coronavirus: Narendra Modi to address nation at 8 pm today
At 8 pm today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation on the coronavirus outbreak and steps taken to combat it. The decision to talk to countrymen was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by him yesterday. On Wednesday, 10 states and Union Territories reported fresh cases of COVID-19, taking the national tally to 170. So far, four have died of the disease.
PM Modi appreciated the efforts of health officials, armed forces
At the review meeting, PM Modi spoke about actively engaging with people, local communities, and organizations to minimize the impact. Reportedly, he also appreciated the efforts of those dealing with the virus at the forefront. He mentioned health officials, state governments, and armed forces, who are putting in a lot of effort. To note, WHO has declared the outbreak a pandemic.
India is looking to expand testing
Those present at the meeting discussed ways to expand preparedness against the virus. A report in Indian Express said India was looking to test those having atypical pneumonia, which has slightly different symptoms than normal pneumonia. Dr. Henk Bekedam, WHO's country representative, said India definitely needs to test more people and by looking at atypical pneumonia patients, it has taken a welcome step.
This was done during SARS outbreak too
"I understand that India is already considering increasing the scope to include atypical pneumonia patients, people showing signs of severe acute respiratory infection. This is something similar to what was done at the time of SARS," Dr. Bekedam told the daily.
After showing reluctance initially, government planning to include private labs
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the nodal agency tackling the outbreak, suggested roping in private laboratories to deal with the virus. Yesterday, the agency informed that 300 samples of the 1,020 random ones, that it had taken in March, tested negative. On Tuesday, the agency informed the first batch of 500 samples also tested negative. The results of 220 samples are awaited.
Roping in private labs isn't as easy as it sounds
However, roping in private labs comes with a separate set of worries. ICMR's senior scientist Nivedita Gupta said while she appreciates that states have volunteered to share the load, she doesn't have time to conduct site inspections. Hence, she asked them to send pictures and videos to judge their capacity. She also wants to know whether these labs have handled respiratory illnesses before.
Gupta doesn't want to enter a risky domain
"In the urge to expand, I shouldn't enter a domain where they don't understand bio-safety and bio-security. There may be contamination or false positives, or even case of infection of a laboratory worker," she went on.
Gupta doesn't think testing everyone is the right thing
She has also dismissed the idea of getting even those, who showed no symptoms, tested. "To date, we have not documented community transmission. Why should we go on telling people who have no history of travel or any contact with an actual case (to get themselves tested)?" she asked. Given India's demography, she doesn't want to waste time on futile testing.