NEW DELHI: Testing of hospitalised cases of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) has brought forth some sporadic cases of Covid-19 without travel or contact history, but the government and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said the instances are inadequate to conclude there is community transmission.
“There are some sporadic cases of Covid-19 where the patients do not have travel or contact history but those numbers are too few so it cannot be said that there is widespread community transmission yet,” said Dr R R Gangakhedkar, head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at ICMR.
“Sometimes, patients do not remember their exposure history and there have been instances where some patients even try to hide their travel history,” he added.
Experts say community transmission in India would mean clusters, more than one, that mix to spread the infection in the community where the link in terms of contacts with patients and foreign travellers go missing. India has not yet reached that stage even as the virus infection has spread into clusters with localised transmission.
“There would be 8-10 clusters in a city like Delhi which then sees cases burgeoning,” said a senior health official. So far the Centre and states have acted fast to contain outbreaks like the one at Bhilwara.
To keep a check on the transmission level, ICMR was initially doing random sampling of hospitalised SARI cases to check if there are Covid-19 cases among such patients with travel or contact history. While initial two rounds of sampling tested negative for Covid-19, ICMR stopped random sampling exercise. Instead, the government eventually shifted its testing strategy to expand it to include all hospitalised SARI cases which also helped the council to asses whether there is any community spread happening.
Around 4000 such samples have been tested so far in an increase from previous exercises while ICMR has tested 27,688 samples for SARS-CoV2 till Friday. “Till we see a significant number of cases to indicate community transmission, let us not over-interpret things,” Gangakhedkar said.