With the plasma therapy gaining a lot of traction as a possible cure for coronavirus, the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday clarified that it is at an experimental stage and there is no evidence yet to support that it can be used as treatment for COVID-19.
Till the effectiveness of this mode of treatment is scientifically proven, its application except for research and clinical trial is illegal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal said.
Addressing the daily briefing to provide updates on COVID-19 situation in the country, Agarwal said currently there are no approved therapies for coronavirus and there is not enough evidence to claim that plasma therapy can be used for treatment of the deadly disease.
The official also said that 17 districts in the country which earlier had cases, have not reported any fresh case of COVID-19 in the last 28 days.
Elaborating on the plasma therapy, Agarwal said that currently there are no approved therapies for coronavirus infection and there is not enough evidence to claim that plasma therapy can be used for treatment of the deadly disease.
“ICMR has launched a national-level study to find out the efficacy of plasma therapy in the treatment of COVID-19,” he said.
“Till ICMR concludes its study and a robust scientific proof is available, plasma therapy should be used only for research or trial purpose. If plasma therapy is not used in a proper manner under the proper guidelines, then it can also cause life threatening complications,” said Agarwal.
On a positive note, he pointed out that 20 nations, which according to WHO data together have reported maximum number of COVID-19 cases, have reported 200 times more deaths and 84 times more cases than that of reported in India.
The combined population of these 20 countries, which have reported maximum number of coronavirus cases according to the WHO data as on Monday, is almost equal to that of India, the official underlined.
“The reason we have been able to manage little better as compared to other countries is because our response has been proactive, preemptive and graded towards tackling the challenge of COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
Agarwal further said that the doubling time of coronavirus cases in India was 3 to 3.25 days before the lockdown was imposed and now it is around 10.2 days. “This is mainly because of our focus on containment, physical distancing and lockdown measures,” he highlighted.
Talking about medical professionals getting infected across the country, Agarwal said that if a healthcare professionals does not take precautions and follow the laiddown guidelines then he can contract the disease and it has been an issue of concern.
“We have been conducting training in this regard. If required guidelines are not followed then there is a risk of contracting the disease. Even, in the case of other diseases the health professionals have to take due precautions,” he said.
Reacting to reports about cases of reinfection in patients after they have recovered, Agarwal said that globally, the percentage of coronavirus reinfection is very minuscule.
“Miniscule percentage of recovered patients again were found to be infected by the disease. As the number is so small, it is not enough to have conclusive evidence over it.
“In the absence of conclusive evidence, we have to surely consider that those patients who have been certified as cured as per the RT-PCR, the gold standard test for coronavirus, are perfectly alright,” he said.
Also, he said that if a COVID-19 patient is found in a non-COVID hospital, the facility can be reused after proper disinfection procedures have been undertaken.
Similarly, workplaces where positive patients have been found can be used after proper disinfection is done, he stressed.
The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 937 and the number of cases climbed to 29,974 in the country on Tuesday, according to the Union Health Ministry.
The number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 22,010, while 7,026 people have recovered, and one patient has migrated, the ministry said.
Thus, 23.44 per cent people have recovered so far, a senior health ministry official said.
Union Heath Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday reviewed the research work conducted by directors/heads of Department of Biotechnology and its 18 autonomous bodies and PSUs through video conference and has directed to expedite the development of antibody detection kits, real-time PCR based detection kits and vaccines for COVID-19 under ”Make in India, Agarwal said.
The Union Health Minister also reviewed the current status of COVID-19 surveillance in Delhi along with Anil Baijal, the LG of Delhi, Satyendar Jain, the city”s health minister, MCD commissioners, DMs and DCPs of all districts of Delhi, central/ state and district surveillance officers and heads of government hospitals via video conferencing.
As of Tuesday, there are 17 districts in the country where earlier cases have been reported, but now no new case has been reported for the last 28 days.
The number of these districts has increased by 1 (two new districts have been added whereas one has been dropped from the previous list) since Monday.
The districts that got added to the list are Kalimpong (West Bengal) and Wayanad (Kerala). The district which was removed from this list is Lakhisarai (Bihar).