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Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan
Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan

India is in throes of Covid-19 community transmission in some districts: Vardhan

'In different pockets community transmission is expected to occur, especially in dense areas. However, this is not happening across the country. It is limited to certain districts occurring in limited states,' says Union Health Minister

NEW DELHI : After being on a denial mode for several months since covid outbreak, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday agreed that India is in the throes of community transmission of the disease.

However the community transmission is limited only to certain districts and states, the health minister said while responding to a query during his weekly interaction with his social media audience -- 'Sunday Samvaad'. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, had recently mentioned instances of community transmission in her state.

"In different pockets across various states, including West Bengal, community transmission is expected to occur, especially in dense areas. However, this is not happening across the country. It is limited to certain districts occurring in limited states," Harsh Vardhan said adding that as of yet, no mutation of coronavirus has been detected in India, which is either more transmission efficient or more pathogenic.

An infection is considered to have reached community transmission, or stage 3, when authorities are unable to find the source of infection for many cases, or tests during randomised surveillance yield many positive results. Several states at different times have admitted the occurrence of community transmission of covid-19 while the Central government always refused to admit the same. Earlier in July. Pinarayi Vijayan Kerala Chief Minister had confirmed that community transmission was happening in Poonthura and Pullivila along with some other parts. Similarly, Assam indicated chances of community transmission around July-August.

However, the Union health ministry in a standard operation procedure (SOP) note for emergency medical relief released in March said, the covid-19 pandemic was in the stage of local transmission and “limited community transmission". The central government however kept on denying community transmission in its press briefings on covid-19 situation.

As the country's covid-19 tally crossed 75 lakh-mark and the death toll ballooned to 1,14,308, Harsh Vardhan warned that India may pay the price of non-adherence of covid-19 appropriate behaviour with winters setting in and festivals round the corner.

Citing the covid-19 situation in Kerala, which had reported just 499 cases and 2 deaths due to covid-19 between January 30 and May 3, the health minister said, “Kerala was paying the price of gross negligence during the recent Onam festivities when State-wise unlocking of services, along with an increase in inter and intrastate travel for trade and tourism, led to the spreading of covid-19 cases across various districts."

The infection curve of Kerala changed completely due to Onam festivities across the State, the daily new cases nearly doubled. This ought to serve as a good lesson for all the state government which were being negligent in planning for the festival season, he added.

Harsh Vardhan said that Union health ministry has already released 1352 crores in the Phase II of the COVID Package to 33 States and Union Territories. This Phase II grant has been released in tranches during the months of August, September and October 2020, he said.

At least 61,871 new confirmed cases were recorded in the last 24 hours and 79% of the new cases are from 10 States and UTs, the government said. Maharashtra continues to be the State reporting a very high number of new cases with more than 10,000 cases followed by Kerala with more than 9,000 cases. Similarly, 1033 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours which is higher than previous few days. Of these, ten States/UTs account for nearly 86%. More than 44% of new fatalities reported are from Maharashtra (463 deaths), the union health ministry said.

“Health ministry has taken up the issue of correct certification of covid-19 deaths with all States and UTs on multiple instances and has also shared a proper modality of reporting of deaths with them to ensure consistency in reporting of covid-19 related deaths across India," said Harsh Vardhan.

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