India’s Covid-19 tally over 5.48 lakh with 19,459 fresh cases; toll at 16,475

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India’s tally of the coronavirus disease mounted to 548,318 after 19,459 new cases and 380 deaths were reported between Sunday and Monday morning, Union health ministry data showed.

The death toll stands at 16,475 after 380 people succumbed to the respiratory disease.

The country’s recovery rate improved further to 58.67% after 12,010 people were cured of the highly-contagious disease in the last 24 hours, according to the health ministry dashboard.

There are 321,722 Covid-19 patients who have been discharged from hospitals till date and 210,120 active cases. On Sunday, the difference between the number of recovered and active cases crossed the 100,000-mark for the first time.

“India’s recovery rate has been steadily going up, which is good news. More than 50% of those having tested positive have recovered and taken out of active medical supervision,” a senior health ministry official had said on condition of anonymity.

According to experts, the rising recoveries may suggest that the outbreak was stabilising.

“When the number of those infected in a day is the same as the number of people recovering then it usually highlights the fact that the disease outbreak is going to stabilise and start declining in some time unless some other variables come in such as floating population or new births that change the entire dynamics,” Dr Jugal Kishore, the head of community medicine department at state-run Safdarjung Hospital, said.

As one of its steps to stem the coronavirus pandemic, the government has focussed on aggressive testing as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has added more laboratories and introducing newer testing techniques.

India’s current capacity is about 350,000 a day, with 200,000 samples tested daily on average. The total number of samples tested stands at 8.2 million since the first one was tested on January 22.

The government is also planning to expand the use of rapid antigen-based Covid-19 tests and the country’s top biomedical research body has advised states to use the easy-to-use method to complement the more rigorous RT-PCR test to detect the coronavirus as infections surge across the country.

A senior official of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said rapid antigen-based tests can help to quickly determine an ongoing infection.

These tests detect the presence of a foreign substance in a person’s nasal or oral swab that triggers the production of antibodies, and, therefore, can find infections. But these are non-confirmatory tests. This means that those who test positive through rapid antigen detection tests are considered “truly positive” for Covid-19 but those who test negative must go for an RT-PCR test for re-confirmation.

RT-PCR, or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, tests for the genetic material of the Sars-Cov-2 virus. But RT-PCR testing is limited in terms of widespread availability because of the need for a specialised lab for analysis, and it takes about five hours to get results.

Maharashtra, India’s worst-affected state, Delhi Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal continued to add to the country’s caseload with more than 85% of infections and 87% of deaths due to the disease.

Globally, the infection tally has crossed the 10 million mark and there have been 501,281 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker.