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Govt plans survey in worst-hit Mumbai, Delhi & Ahmedabad


New Delhi: India plans to conduct surveys in New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad – among the cities worst-hit by Covid-19 where an alarming growth in number of cases and the positivity rate indicate the infection may be spreading rapidly even as the nationwide lockdown is eased. The number of coronavirus cases in New Delhi crossed 20,000 on Monday, with 50 new fatalities taking the death toll to 523. Its positivity rate after testing 217,537 people as on June 1 was 10%, which is double the national average of 5%. The rate refers to the proportion of positive cases among the total number tested.

With 990 fresh cases, total infections in the national capital rose to 20,834, doubling in almost 12 days, according to data from the Indian Council of Medical Research. The positivity rate in Mumbai surged to 18-20% on June 1 from 3% in early April and 6% in mid-April. Gujarat has a positivity of 7%, with 215,279 tests carried out so far.

The surveys referred to as sero-surveillance – essentially blood tests to detect the presence of antibodies to Covid-19 — will be carried out by the National Centre for Disease Control in the three cities and will help monitor the spread of the disease in the population. The study, experts said, will help in understanding trends such as where the outbreaks are occurring and which regions are quiet. Data on the characteristics of those who are falling ill and those who are protected can also help guide policy.

“The study will make the results of antibody testing more informative. This will tell us whether antibodies remain in the body, what levels of antibodies provide immunity and how the disease responds in people who had various infection of various levels of severity or who have other medical conditions,” a senior government official said. The latest trends come as India ramps up testing and states start lifting lockdown curbs.

Public health experts said the increasing positivity rate is a cause of concern, even as the health ministry maintained that India’s fatality rate — deaths among confirmed cases is the among the lowest globally and has dropped to 2.87%. According to Lav Agrawal, joint secretary in the health ministry, the global fatality rate is 6.4%.

“While the world recorded 4.5 deaths per lakh population, India has reported 0.3 deaths per lakh population. This is because the government utilised the lockdown period in preparation of health infrastructure, stringent measures in the containment zones and social distancing,” he said.

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