New Delhi: The doubling rate for COVID-19 cases has improved to 11 days in the country as against the 3.4 days before the lockdown was imposed and the case fatality has been recorded at 3.2 per cent, the Union health ministry said on Thursday.
Addressing a press briefing, Joint Secretary in the ministry Lav Agarwal said the doubling rate of COVID-19 cases in several states is better than the national average.
He said the doubling rate of COVID-19 cases was found to be between 11-20 days in Delhi (11.3), Uttar Pradesh (12), Jammu and Kashmir (12.2), Odisha (13), Rajasthan (17.8), Tamil Nadu (19.1) and Punjab (19.5).
A doubling rate of between 20-40 days was seen in Karnataka (21.6), Ladakh (24.2), Haryana (24.4), Uttarakhand (30.3) and Kerala (37.5), Agarwal said.
A doubling rate of over 40 days was noted in Assam (59), Telangana (70.8), Chhattisgarh (89.7) and Himachal Pradesh (191.6), he added.
However, Agarwal said that despite the improved overall doubling rate of a state, there can be some districts in it where the cases are doubling at a faster pace.
"And thus, it is important to ensure that we continue to work in a focussed manner in the identified hotspot areas, along with the other parts of the country," he said.
The joint secretary said the current case fatality rate for COVID-19 is 3.2 per cent in the country, with 65 per cent of the victims being males and 35 per cent females.
"Looking at the age distribution of the deaths, 14 per cent case fatality was seen below 45 years, 34.8 per cent between 45-60 years and a 51.2 per cent case fatality was noted among those above 60 years," he said.
"Further, if we divide the mortality cases above 60 years, then we see that the mortality has been 42 per cent in the age group of 60-75 years and 9.2 per cent in those above 75 years," Agarwal said.
Also, comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney and heart-related issues among others were found in 78 per cent of the deaths and both old age and co-morbidities were found as risk factors.
Agarwal said the recovery rate for COVID-19 has progressively improved from 13.06 per cent to over 25 per cent in the country in the last 14 days.
He said some hospitals in the private sector are hesitating to provide critical services like dialysis, chemotherapy, blood transfusion and institutional delivery to their regular patients due to lack of understanding and fear.
"In some cases, they have closed down the clinics while some are insisting for testing before offering those services," he said, adding that the ministry has asked the states to ensure that all healthcare establishments, especially those in the private sector, remain functional and provide critical services so that patients do not face any difficulty.
"In the context of testing, it needs to be highlighted that health facilities should prescribe testing according to the testing protocol," Agarwal said.
Healthcare service providers should take necessary precautions for personal protection and use PPE rationally in accordance with the guidelines and the healthcare facilities should follow the infection prevention and control practices, he added.
Speaking about testing being scaled up, Agarwal said starting with one single laboratory, the RT-PCR tests are now available in292 government and 97 private facilities across the country.
"On Wednesday, 58,686 tests were performed and if you see the average number of tests performed each day in the last five days, it comes to 49,800 tests. It is important to understand that whatever capacity is needed, we have progressively increased it," he said.
Responding to a question on rapid antibody test kits being sold at a higher price in the market for private use, Agarwal said such kits have a limited role in terms of epidemiological understanding or surveillance.
He said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is coordinating with the state governments and guiding them on the use of rapid test kits.
"There is a need for awareness among the masses that this test has a very limited utility. Antibody formation takes time and this test is just used to ascertain if antibodies have formed in the body. As far as testing for COVID-19 and the treatment is concerned, the RT-PCR test is to be used," he said.
Over the role of antiviral medication Remdesivir in the treatment of coronavirus, Agarwal said Remdesivir is one of the medical protocols that are being examined the world over, while reiterating that there is no confirmed treatment protocol to be followed for the deadly disease.
"Remdesivir is one protocol which is being examined. Only one study has been done by the United States National Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases. It has not conclusively proved its effectiveness. We are waiting for larger evidence to take meaningful action at the field level," he said.
Over developing drugs, the joint secretary said multiple organisations within the government are coordinating several vaccine trials for COVID-19 and a few vaccine candidates have also been identified across the world.
India has also collaborated with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Solidarity Trial, he added.
"It is a time-consuming process and there are different stages to go through to conclude about the safety and efficacy of a vaccine on human beings. To begin with, we have hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis treatment," Agarwal said.
The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 1,075 and the number of cases climbed to 33,610 in the country on Thursday.