Govt says no evidence of plasma therapy being a cure
New Delhi- The nationwide tally of confirmed coronavirus infections crossed 31,000 on Tuesday with more than 1,000 deaths as Maharahstra, Gujarat and some other states reported more fatalities, but hopes for any immediate cure were dashed after the Health Ministry said there is not enough evidence as yet to back plasma therapy as its treatment.
The Ministry cautioned there could be life-threatening complications if proper guidelines are not followed in administering the plasma therapy, in which blood plasma is transfused from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a critically-ill person.
The therapy, currently in trial stage, works on a principle that immunity can be transferred from a healthy person to a sick patient using antibodies in convalescent plasma.
As per the latest figures announced by various states and union territories, more than 31,200 people have been tested positive for this deadly virus across the country. At least 1,005 have died, but nearly 7,200 have recovered too.
The figures suggest that an average of about one in 25 has tested positive so far. Among those having tested positive, one in 30 has died on an average, while the ratio of those having recovered is approximately one in four.
There has been a widespread hope that plasma therapy can be a possible treatment for COVID-19 after the Delhi government said it has seen encouraging results on some patients, while few other states including Rajasthan and Karnataka have also begun the trials.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed officials on Tuesday itself to encourage use of plasma therapy, while steps are already underway at various places to create ‘plasma banks’. Several people who have recovered after contracting the virus have offered to donate their plasma for treatment of others.
At his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has launched a national-level study to check efficacy of the plasma therapy, but till this study is completed and a robust scientific proof is available, this therapy should be used only for research or trial purpose.
“If plasma therapy is not used in a proper manner under proper guidelines, then it can also cause life threatening complications,” Agarwal said.
The Health Ministry official, however, said the recovery rate of COVID-19 patients has as such improved to 23.3 per cent of total cases.
In its 5 PM update, the Ministry said the COVID-19 death toll has risen to 937, after more than 50 deaths since Monday evening including in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir, while the number of cases has climbed to 29,974. According to the ministry data, 1,594 new cases have been reported since Monday evening.
The number of active COVID-19 cases stands at 22,010, while 7,026 people have recovered and one patient has migrated, the ministry said.
However, a PTI tally of figures reported by various states and UTs, as of 11.30 PM, showed 31,236 confirmed cases, including 1,005 deaths and nearly 7,200 recoveries.
On a positive note, Agarwal pointed said 20 nations, which have reported maximum number of COVID-19 cases, have seen 200 times more deaths and 84 times more cases than India.
The combined population of these 20 countries is almost equal to that of India, the official said, while attributing this to India’s response being “proactive, preemptive and graded towards tackling the challenge of COVID-19 crisis”.
Separately, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said India will be self-reliant in producing RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) and antibody testing kits by May-end that will enable it to conduct one lakh tests a day.
While RT-PCR is considered key for a reliable diagnosis in fighting COVID-19, ICMR had to stop use of rapid antibody test kits the country had procured from two Chinese suppliers after some states flagged their faulty results.
The minister also said exhorted scientists working on developing new vaccines, new drugs and medical equipment, to speed up their work.
“Out of at least half a dozen candidates supported for vaccines, four are in an advanced stage and regulatory platform at one place has been constituted for speedy clearances,” he said.
Vardhan also said 80 districts in the country have not reported any new COVID-19 case in the last seven days, while 47 districts have not registered any fresh case in the last 14 days.
Maharashtra has reported the maximum cases at over 9,300 and at least 400 deaths. Gujarat has over 3,700 cases, while Delhi also has more than 3,300 confirmed cases. Each of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have reported more than 2,000 cases.
A 55-year-old Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel also died on Tuesday due to coronavirus infection. This is the first COVID-19 death reported in paramilitary forces.
A nationwide lockdown has been imposed till May 3 to check the virus spread, which has claimed more than two lakh lives worldwide and over 30 lakh people have got infected since it first emerged in China last December.
Several countries have implemented lockdown and other containment measures, though some of them including New Zealand, France and Switzerland have begun relaxing those curbs.
In coming days, some clarity is expected about the ongoing lockdown in India.
In Delhi, Lt Governor (LG) Anil Baijal directed all district magistrates to implement a “micro-containment zone strategy”, under which small clusters reporting cases of the dreaded virus will be identified and declared containment zones instead of big ones.
The national capital on Tuesday saw the NITI Aayog building on Parliament Street getting sealed for 48 hours, after a director-level officer tested positive.
In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state as people have a casual attitude to norms like social distancing and do not understand the gravity of the contagion.
The state reported 121 more people testing positive on Tuesday, taking the state’s tally to 2,058, while a 68-year old man died of coronavirus in Chennai. The new positive cases included two police personnel and a flower vendor in Chennai.
In Assam, where few new cases have emerged in the last few days, two persons tested positive, taking its total to 37. Some of the north-eastern states have not reported a single case for quite some time.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath asked officials to increase testing capacity. He also sought preparation of work plans to restart industrial units after May 3 and for giving employment to migrant labourers.
In Surat, Gujarat, hundreds of migrant workers came out on roads and vandalised the office of an under-construction building and some vehicles while demanding that they be sent back to their native places.
West Bengal saw attacks on some policemen trying to enforce lockdown in ‘red zone’ Howarah district. The state reported 28 new cases, taking its total to 663, while the number of fatalities rose to 22 with two new deaths.
Separately, the Union Health Ministry asked all states and Union territories to ensure that health facilities, especially in the private sector, remain functional and those needing critical healthcare such as dialysis, blood transfusion and chemotherapy are not denied such services amid the ongoing lockdown.
This followed reports that many hospitals in the private sector were hesitating in providing critical services to their regular patients either on account of fear of contracting COVID-19 or because they are keeping their hospitals or clinics closed.
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