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NEW DELHI : Even as infections continued to double every seven and a half days, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Monday that the majority of covid-19 cases in the country could be without any symptoms.

“At least 80 out of every 100 Covid-19 patients may be asymptomatic or could be showing mild symptoms. It takes a few days before an infected person begins to show symptoms and the probability of being detected positive is highest when symptoms begin to show," said Dr R. Gangakhedkar, senior scientist at ICMR, New Delhi.

“It is a new disease but we are doing everything we can to combat it. As of now, we are not planning to change the testing criteria," he said, when asked if this needed a change in testing strategy to include those without symptoms. Contact tracing remains crucial.

As per ICMR’s testing protocols, only those people who show symptoms or are contacts of previously confirmed patients are being tested. They also include those suffering from Severe Acute Respiratory Infections.

The criteria was, however, revised for hotspots and containment zones, where all people showing influenza-like illness are being tested, but primarily screened through antibody tests. If the result is positive, the samples are again tested using RT-PCR for final confirmation. Pool sampling is being done for better surveillance in areas with low prevalence of infections.

According to a recent study published in peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine by Chinese scientists, covid-19 infected persons may begin shedding (transmitting) virus two-three days before the symptoms begin to appear.

Maharashtra and Delhi, which have the highest number of cases, have been expressing concerns over a large number of asymptomatic cases. Maharashtra even said that at least 70% of patients in the state are without any symptoms.

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