NEW DELHI: Less than 1% — 0.73% to be precise — of the population has been found exposed to Covid-19 infection in the results of the first part of the sero-survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 83 districts and the low prevalence saw the government assert that there was no community transmission in India even though incidence may be higher in containment zones or hotspots.
Sharing the results of the sero-survey (blood-based tests to check for Covid-19 antibodies), ICMR director general Balram Bhargava said, “There is a heightened debate around this term — community transmission. Having said that, I think even the WHO has not given a definition for it. And, as we have also shown, India is such a large country and the prevalence is so low. In urban and containment areas, it may be slightly higher. But India is definitely not in community transmission.”
The second part of the survey — to estimate the scale of transmission in containment zones in hotspot cities like Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and others — is still going on. The survey under discussion on Thursday relates to the situation till April 30.
The ICMR conducted the serosurvey in May and the data is based on reported Covid-19 cases till April 25. The assessment that this reflects the situation in April-end is based on the calculation that it takes up to two weeks for the infection to manifest itself.
The government cautioned that a limited spread also means a large proportion of the population is still susceptible. “There is no room for complacency. No one should let their guard down and states must continue with contact tracing, testing and containment strategies,” a government source said, adding there was a tendency among some sections of people to consider the threat to have passed.
“So far, the incidence is not very high and containment is intended to stamp out high levels of local transmission,” he said. The first part of the survey — to assess the magnitude of Covid-19 spread in the general population across the country — involved 83 districts with 28,595 households visited and 26,400 individuals enrolled under it.
ICMR said data from 65 districts had been compiled till now and this might the biggest serosurvey conducted anywhere. Findings of the survey also showed the risk of the spread was higher in urban areas as compared to rural areas.
In urban areas, the risk of spread was 1.09 times higher, whereas in urban slums, it was 1.89 times higher than rural areas. It also showed that the fatality rate among those surveyed was very low, at 0.08%.