ICMR to test for Community Transmission of COVID-19
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has announced that it would start testing influenza patients without any travel history or contact with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for signs of community transmission.
Four Stages of Transmission of COVID-19
Stage 1-Imported Transmission
It is reported among the travellers entering the country via the borders and airports.
These can be controlled through thermal screening and quarantine.
To prevent imported transmissions, India has suspended visas to foreign nationals and the facility of visa-free travel to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card-holders.
Stage 2-Local Transmission
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as the transmission through direct contact with an infected person within the country.
Stage 3-Community Transmission
It signifies that a virus is circulating in the community and can affect people with no history of travel to affected areas or of contact with an infected person.
India’s current emphasis on social distancing and discouragement of public gatherings is aimed at checking community transmission.
Once community transmission begins, it is more difficult to trace contacts. As one unknown source of infection can infect many people unknowingly.
Among the countries where community transmission seems to have begun are China, Italy and South Korea.
Stage 4- Epidemic
An epidemic is a large outbreak, one that spreads among a population or region.
It is less severe than pandemic due to a limited area of spread.
Level of Transmission in India
So far, most of the cases in India have had a history of travel abroad or have contracted the disease from somebody around them.
However, some of the cases in the country had neither any history of foreign travel nor had they come directly in contact with an infected person.
Currently, India is at Stage 2 of Local Transmission and precautions are being taken to prevent it from entering Stage 3 of Community Transmission.
India’s Current Strategy to tackle COVID-19
Social Distancing and Cluster Containment:
The cluster containment strategy intends to contain the disease within a defined geographic area by early detection, breaking the chain of transmission and thus preventing its spread to new areas.
It includes geographic quarantine, social distancing measures, enhanced active surveillance, testing all suspected cases, isolation of cases, home quarantine of contacts, social mobilization to follow preventive public health measures.
Possible Involvement of the Private Sector:
The government is working with private hospitals to develop standard operating procedures for treatment and isolation of patients.
The involvement of the private sector may face some issues like the possibility of profiteering, affordability issues, crowding of people at a large number of places, etc.
Italy followed a model of lockdown whereas South Korea has observed a model of free testing.
India has been following the Italian model of lockdown.
China has adopted a graded approach, and the number of new cases are gradually declining.
It has locked down Hubei, the epicentre. Elsewhere, it enforced social distancing measures.