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A large part of India’s population is still vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the findings of the second national serological survey released on Tuesday, even as covid-19 infections in the country surged to 6,176,561, with more than 96,000 fatalities.

The survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said 1 out of 15 individuals aged 10 years or more may have been exposed to the virus by August.

Urban slum (15.6%) and non-slum (8.2%) areas had higher SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence than that of rural areas (4.4%), said the survey. The prevalence in adults was found to be 7.1%, according to the ICMR.

“The risk in urban slums was twice than that in non-slum areas and four times than the risk in the rural setting. The 26 to 32 infections per reported case by August 2020 (81-130 in May 2020), underlines the effect of the scaled up testing, tracking, and treating strategy," said Balaram Bhargava, director general, ICMR.

“There still exists a considerable section of susceptible people who are yet unexposed to SARS-CoV-2. Since a large proportion of the population is yet susceptible, the prevention strategy with test, track, trace, treat technology is to be adhered to," he said.

Bhargava, however, said the lockdown, containment and behavioural change at the population level have effectively checked the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Non-pharmacological interventions such as physical distancing, use of face cover, hand hygiene, and cough etiquette, are still essential, the ICMR chief said. Bhargava urged states to implement inventive containment strategies in view of the mass gatherings that may take place during the upcoming festivities and the onset of winter months.

Labourers are at higher risk of contracting the infection, V.K. Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog, said at a press briefing by the Union health ministry on covid-19 preparedness and government actions. “The safe workplace guidelines for industrial establishments issued jointly by the ministries of labour and employment and health and family welfare to help protect the labour force from infection should be followed," he said.

Rajesh Bhushan, secretary, health ministry, said the price of Remdesivir, the drug for covid-19, is down from 5,500 to 2,800 now with six Indian companies manufacturing it.

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