India is the the fifth worst-hit nation by the deadly coronavirus in the world (File)
India is "definitely not" in the community transmission stage of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said today amid speculation over the past few days on the spike in cases in Mumbai and Delhi.
"There is a heightened debate around the term and then the WHO has not defined it. The prevalence is so low in our country, below 1%. In urban areas it is little higher and a little higher in containment zones. We are definitely not in community transmission," said Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Community transmission, or Stage 3 of a pandemic, is marked by cases that cannot be traced to any source of infection.
Speculation about community spread picked up with a surge in COVID-19 cases in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
On Monday, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said a large number of cases in Delhi could not be traced to any source, but only the centre could declare whether the city was in the community transmission stage of the pandemic.
"We say community spread when people don't know how they got the infection. There are many cases. In 50 per cent of the cases in Delhi, the source of infection is not known," Mr Jain told reporters.
"AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria had said there is community transmission in Delhi but the centre has not accepted it yet. We cannot declare it and the centre has to declare it. Community spread is a technical term and it depends on the centre whether they accept it or not," said the Delhi minister.
There are close to 30,000 COVID-19 cases in Delhi and the city government assesses that there will be over 50,000 cases in 10 days and 5.5 lakh cases by July 31.
Mumbai has over 45,000 virus cases and the number of containment zones has gone up to 798.
Over 60% of Mumbai lives in slums and doctors working in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, insist there is community spread in the city.
"Those who live in slums work outside and they don't maintain social distancing due to lack of space. There isn't enough awareness and that are asymptomatic patients and spreaders and that why I believe this is community transmission. It came from the buildings to the slums and now it's going from slums to buildings," said Dilip Shetty, Dharavi Fever Clinic Practitioner.
The Union Health Ministry, rejecting any possibility of community spread, says there could be gaps in contact tracing in containment zones, or areas sealed after a large number of COVID-19 cases.
"If contact tracing isn't done properly, the authorities will face difficulty in tracing the source of infection and the cases will continue to rise in the containment zone," a ministry official says.