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The Indian Council of Medical Research is actively exploring saliva-based test for detection of COVID-19, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said adding that no significant or drastic mutation in strains of SARS-CoV-2 has been found in India till now.

During an interaction with his social media followers, Vardhan informed them the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been conducting large-scale sequencing of nationally representative strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus collected for several months over different time-points.

Detailed results on mutations and evolution of the virus will be available in early October, he said.

Replying to queries during the 'Sunday Samvad' platform, Vardhan further said enough oxygen is being produced in the country and the health ministry is closely monitoring the situation.

According to a health ministry statement, he reminded everyone that the ministry had dispatched oxygen concentrators to rural parts of the country, to avert the logistic issues that have come to light.

About saliva-based test for COVID-19, Vardhan noted that the ICMR has validated a few tests, but no reliable test has been found and companies with tests approved by US-FDA have still not approached the Government of India.

He added that the country's apex health research body is actively exploring this test method and will inform as soon as reliable options are available.

He also noted that it would take a substantive amount of time for developing herd immunity to be able to cover about 70 per cent of the population. Hence the focus of the government is primarily towards putting together a strategy that combines containment and hospital management, the minister said.

Being a doctor himself, Vardhan answered questions on the clinical management of COVID-19 in great detail dispelling myths surrounding the use of hydroxychloroquine and plasma therapy in treating coronavirus patients. He also explained to his audience how coronavirus becomes fatal for the elderly and those with comorbidity.

He also sought to dispel fears caused by the suspension of trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, saying vaccine development is a complex process and trials have restarted only after an independent investigative expert committee permitted them to proceed.


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