Covid-19 community transmission limited to certain districts: Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi (NVI): Community transmission of the novel coronavirus has occurred in certain districts in a limited number of states but not countrywide, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said today.

Speaking during his weekly programme ‘Sunday Samvaad’, Harsh Vardhan said that 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,” he added.

Harsh Vardhan was responding to a question was that were other states with community transmission like West Bengal.

The Minister’s statement also comes in the backdrop of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee`s statement that COVID-19 community transmission has started in the state.

Pertinent to mention here that this is the first time the Health Minister has admitted the community transmission after denying the community spread of the infectious pathogen for months.

Harsh Vardhan shared also spoke on the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Kerala. Noting that between January 30 & May 3, Kerala had reported just 499 cases and 2 deaths due to COVID-19, he said that 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.

“Epicurve of Kerala changed completely due to Onam festivities across the State, the daily new cases nearly doubled,” he said.

On China’s claim that the novel coronavirus broke out simultaneously in several countries last year, Dr Harsh Vardhan shared that “there is no evidence that can validate the claims on global multiple focal point for the novel coronavirus outbreak”. He stated that Wuhan, China remains recognized as the first report worldwide.

He also assured that as of yet, no mutation of coronavirus has been detected in India, which is either more transmission efficient or more pathogenic.

The Minister also informed that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already released the Phase II of the COVID package to 33 States and Union Territories. The total amount released in the second package amounts to a total of Rs 1,352 Crores. This Phase II grant has been released in tranches during the months of August, September and October 2020, he said.

The Minister assured that there is no shortage in Medical Oxygen. He said that current oxygen production capacity of India is around 6400 MT/Day and the Government is ready to scale up the production capacity in order to meet any further increase in demand arising due to the Pandemic. The Empowered Group constituted by MHA is monitoring the requirement of medical oxygen across India, he said.

Harsh Vardhan further remarked that although there are no intranasal COVID-19 vaccines under trial in India at the moment, Serum India and Bharat Biotech are expected to pursue clinical trials of such vaccines in India in the coming months on receipt of regulatory approval.

-ARK