COVID-19: Confirmed cases near 20,000, death toll crosses 600; ICMR to test rapid testing kits

With testing being ramped up to identify COVID-19 patients, the efficacy of China-made rapid antibody blood test kits has come under scanner with Rajasthan on Tuesday flagging their “inaccurate results”, prompting the apex medical research body ICMR to ask states to stop these tests for two days for further validation.
While the nationwide tally of confirmed infections neared 20,000 with new cases reported from various states and the death toll crossed 600, the Union Health Ministry officials also said the recovery rate has improved to 17.5 per cent and a record number of 705 patients were cured and discharged on Monday itself.
Overall, more than 3,800 persons have been cured and discharged so far, while there are more than 15,000 active cases in the country now, as per figures announced by various state governments.
While West Bengal reported three more deaths on Tuesday, a political standoff emerged between the state and the Centre after Union Home Ministry said the state government was not cooperating with the central teams visiting there to assess the COVID-19 situation.
The state’s ruling party Trinamool Congress said the visit of central teams to West Bengal was like “adventure tourism” and asked why such delegations were not sent to states with much higher numbers of infections and hotspots.
Later in the day, one of the two teams sent to the state visited certain areas of Kolkata, escorted by the Border Security Force (BSF) and state police personnel.
At a daily press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, Home Ministry Joint Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava said the Centre has sent teams under Disaster Management Act to four states — Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. While Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are extending full support, the government in West Bengal is not doing so, she said, While new cases were also reported from various states including Odisha and Kerala — where the infection spread has been relatively slower — as many as 115 families residing at the President’s Estate in the national capital have also been put under self-isolation as a preventive measure after a sanitation worker’s relative tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.
A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique, however, clarified that till date no employee of the President’s secretariat has tested positive and the secretariat along with the local administration is taking all the preventive measures under the government guidelines.
A COVID-19 positive patient from central Delhi, who was neither an employee of the President’s secretariat nor a resident of the President’s Estate, had died on April 13 and after contact tracing it was found that a family member of an employee of the President’s secretariat had been in contact with the deceased, the statement said.’The employee and his family members are residents of the President’s Estate.
In the national capital, there are 1,603 active cases of COVID-19, while 47 people have died of coronavirus so far, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal also announced a special testing facility for mediapersons from Wednesday, after Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra reported positive test results for several journalists and other staff members of media organisations.
In Rajasthan, the central team discussed the coronavirus situation over a video-conference with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who reiterated the state government’s demand from the Centre to deal with the pandemic.
The state government, however, stopped use of China-made rapid testing kits for coronavirus after they delivered inaccurate results.
The state government had got 30,000 kits through ICMR for free while 10,000 kits were purchased at a cost of Rs 540 plus tax per kit.
The rapid testing kits, through which blood samples are tested, are aimed at speeding up screening and detection of suspected coronavirus patients as they take less time to show results in comparison to the swab-based tests carried out in pathology labs.
Rajasthan’s health minister Raghu Sharma said the kits gave only 5.4 per cent accurate results against the expectation of 90 per cent accuracy and therefore the kits were of no benefit. He said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been informed about the issue.
ICMR’s Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar told journalists that states have been advised not to use these rapid test kits for two days and a fresh advisory would be issued after field validation by its team.’If any problems are detected, the companies will be asked for replacement.
‘The ICMR scientist further said that a total of 4,49,810 samples for COVID-19 infection have been tested till Tuesday of which 35,852 were done on Monday. As many as 29,776 samples have been tested in 201 labs under the ICMR network, and 6,076 at 86 private laboratories.
Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said a total of 705 people have been cured so far and the overall recovery rate in the country has risen to 17.48 per cent.
In its evening update, the Ministry said the death toll has risen to 603 and the number of positive cases has gone up to 18,985 across the country. This included 15,122 active cases, as on 5 PM Tuesday.
However, a PTI tally of numbers reported by various states and union territories put the nationwide tally of positive cases at 19,867 with at least 646 deaths and 3,801 recoveries.
Among the states, Maharashtra reported more positive cases from Dharavi slums of the state capital Mumbai, while Uttar Pradesh saw its tally increasing by more than 100 to close to 1,300.
Maharashtra has already reported more than 250 deaths, while Gujarat has lost 90 lives. Madhya Pradesh has also reported at least 80 deaths.
The number of confirmed cases in Maharashtra has crossed 5,200, the highest in the country and including more than 3,400 in Mumbai itself. Delhi and Gujarat have reported more than 2,000 positive cases each, while the number has crossed 1,500 in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.
Globally, the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 1.7 lakh people, including over 42,000 in the US. Nearly 25 lakh infections have been reported worldwide so far, even as there are fears that the actual tally could be much more as tests are so far limited to serious or symptomatic cases in most countries.
In a press briefing, the World Health Organisation also warned against any rush to ease coronavirus restrictions, saying any such move could result in a resurgence of the disease.
The WHO said governments across the world need to remain vigilant to stop the deadly virus spread and lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually.