India's COVID-19 testing capacity has surged to more than 12 lakh daily tests, said Union Health Ministry on Wednesday. Taking to Twitter, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) said more than 6.5 cr total tests have been conducted across the country. Higher testing leads to early identification of positive cases.
"India's testing capacity has surged to more than 12L daily tests. Higher than 6.5 cr total tests have been conducted across the country. Higher testing leads to early identification of positive cases. As evidence revealed, eventually positivity rate will fall," it said.
Meanwhile, India also has the highest number of recoveries in the world and for the past four days, the number of people who recuperated from COVID-19 daily was more than new instances of the infection reported each day, the government said on Tuesday.
At a press briefing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India has the highest number of recovered cases in the world at 44,97,867.
"India's share in global COVID-19 cases is around 17.7 per cent, while those who have recuperated are 19.5 per cent of the total recoveries in the world. Daily recoveries are more than the number of new infections reported each day for the past four days," he said.
While the United States' share in global COVID-19 cases is 22.4 per cent, those who have recuperated there comprise 18.6 per cent of total worldwide recoveries, according to data presented by Bhushan.
Brazil contributed 14.5 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases globally while in terms of recoveries, its share is 16.8 per cent, the data showed.
Bhushan said the number of active COVID-19 cases in India was 9,75,861, which was less than one-fifth of the total 55,62,663 instances of infection recorded in India so far.
"We get swayed by the narrative that India has over 50 lakh cases, but we forget that nearly 45 lakh people have already recovered," the health secretary said.
He also said early detection, isolation and seamless hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients has been made possible due to an exponential increase in testing infrastructure in the country.
At the briefing, Dr V K Paul, Member (Health) in the NITI Aayog, who also heads the national task force on COVID-19, urged people to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour such as wearing masks and following social distancing norms more diligently, especially, as the festive season is about to begin next month.
Even now, 80-85 per cent of the people are susceptible to the virus, he said.
Paul said the overall COVID-19 situation in the country remains under control and asserted that scientific estimates have shown that pandemic can be controlled up to 36-50 per cent if people continue to maintain COVID-appropriate behaviour.
He also warned against large gatherings during the festivities, saying chances of contagion increases in such cases and may lead to an explosive situation.
"Going by the daily increase in numbers of coronavirus infections, we cannot afford complacency on any aspect for the next two to three months," Paul said.
He urged people to protect the elderly, take ayurvedic immunity-boosting products and also do yoga to increase the body's immunity against respiratory ailments which occur more during the winters.
"Masks can play an important role in preventing the transmission of the disease. Social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, no spitting and hand hygiene will be the social vaccine against coronavirus infection till the time a vaccine comes," Paul added.
Ruling out apprehensions that less testing in some states might have caused daily to rise above new infections each day over the last four days, Bhushan said that more than eight lakh tests were done every day between September 19 and 22.
"India still figures among the countries with the lowest deaths and cases per million population.
India has 64 deaths per million population, whereas the world's average stands at 123," he said.
To a question over Punjab seeing high COVID-19 fatality rate, Bhushan mentioned that one area where efforts need to be put in with renewed vigour is increasing testing and also trying to detect those who are symptomatic negative in rapid antigen tests and ensuring that they undergo RT-PCR tests.
"This has been our request to states and Union Territories that they should follow ICMR guidelines according to which all symptomatic individuals testing negative in rapid antigen test should be confirmed with a real-time PCR test," he said.
The Union health secretary further said the information of augmented hospital facilities must be proactively put in public domain so that there is a feeling of confidence among people that if they go to a hospital they will get a bed.
To a question over the efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19 in view of the draft regulatory guidelines for the development of vaccines with special consideration for one against coronavirus, ICMR Director-General, Dr Balram Bhargava said all vaccines for respiratory viruses are not 100 per cent effective.
"There are three things for a vaccine -- the safety, the immunogenicity and the efficacy. WHO says that if we can get more than 50 per cent efficacy that is an accepted vaccine. For respiratory viruses, we never get 100 per cent efficacy. We are aiming for 100 per cent efficacy but may get 50-100 per cent," he said.
Elaborating on the exponential increase in testing infrastructure for detection of COVID-19 being done in the country, Bhushan said the journey from one crore tests as on July 7 done by 1,100 labs to three crore tests in 27 days as on August 3 when the country had 1,300 labs.
"It just took us nine days to reach from five crore on September 8 to six crore tests on September 17. Today we have 1,776 labs both in the public and private sector. Even now, everyday private sector labs conduct more than 1.5 lakh tests while public sector labs conduct more than 9 lakh tests," he said.
The health secretary also said the top seven states in terms of daily cases are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and West Bengal.