Community transmission of coronavirus hasn't started in India: ICMR
Amid a worrying spike in coronavirus cases, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday reiterated that India hasn't entered the community transmission stage yet, and underlined that the population affected by COVID-19 is less. The body said the lockdown, imposed on March 25, was effective in curtailing the transmission. Ironically though, India's infection tally stands at 2.9 lakh and 8,100 have died.
The World Health Organization defines community transmission as "inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples." In simpler terms, in community spread the source of transmission can't be established, implying, someone with no travel history or contact with an infected person, can test positive.
Since the last couple of days, India has been recording almost 10,000 fresh COVID-19 cases daily, with considerable spike being witnessed in Mumbai and Delhi. As this sparked fears about community spread, ICMR tried setting the record straight. "We are definitely not in community transmission. It is only a term," Balram Bhargava, Director-General of ICMR, which is leading India's coronavirus battle, told media today.
"There is a heightened debate around the term and then the WHO has not defined it. The prevalence is so low in our country, below 1%. In urban areas it is little higher and a little higher in containment zones," he said.
There are, however, contrasting views related to community transmission. In May last week, the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine, and Indian Association of Epidemiologists released a joint statement claiming the dreaded stage has been reached. The bodies said community transmission is well-established in India, and perhaps, isn't getting detected because not enough people per million are getting tested.
"It is unrealistic to expect that COVID-19 pandemic can be eliminated at this stage given that community transmission is already well-established across large sections or sub-populations in the country," the statement added.
In fact, earlier this week, Delhi's Health Minister Satyender Jain painted a bleak picture saying the source of transmission was unknown in at least 50% of coronavirus cases in Delhi. He, however, fell short of making the announcement saying it was Centre's prerogative. After his statement, the state and Centre sat for a meeting where the latter declared community spread hasn't begun yet.