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COVID-19: One million cases, no community transmission?

The Government continues to claim — despite cases now exceeding one million — that community transmission of COVID-19 is yet to occur in India.

World Health Organization WHO introduced new official name for Coronavirus disease named COVID-19. COVID-19 deaths illustrative. COVID-19 lockdown illustration. Deaths from COVID-19 illustration. COVID-19 pandemic concept. Image credit: quatrox / 123rf
Image credit: quatrox / 123rf

Health Issues India previously noted the Government’s denial of community transmission more than a month ago. In an article published on June 2nd, Health Issues India covered a report drafted by epidemiologists, public health practitioners and experts in preventive and social medicine. They claimed “community transmission is already well-established across large sections or sub-populations in the country.”

At that time of writing, COVID-19 cases numbered just short of 200,000, following a two month upward trend in cases. In the month since, cases in India have surged to 1,241,654, a fivefold increase in just a short period of time. This rapid increase in cases has shown no signs of abating, with daily case counts rising consistently week-by-week.

COVID-19 is now present in every state and union territory, except Lakshadweep. For the disease to have spread to every corner of India — and in such high numbers — the possibility that community transmission is not occurring seems all but impossible as little else would explain the rapid spread of the disease.

Several scientists and health experts commented to The Indian Express that it was simply not true that community transmission is not occurring. They claimed that the Government position on COVID-19 was entirely “untenable”, and that community transmission was undoubtedly occurring. 

The scientists did, however, note that whether the declaration of community transmission is made at this point does not matter. The definition of the term underlines the fact that transmission has become so widespread that contact tracing and the capacity to track who has passed on the condition has become all but impossible. This is already the case as the COVID-19 tally surpasses one million cases and active cases number in the hundreds of thousands.

“You talk to any epidemiologist of any repute, who is outside of the government, and he or she will tell you the same thing. It is a totally untenable claim. It was untenable even earlier, but now… I don’t even know what to say to this,” said Vineeta Bal, an immunologist and a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune.

Regardless of whether an official declaration is made, it is undeniable that India’s COVID-19 situation is dire. Surging past a million cases with untold numbers that may not have been diagnosed, it no longer looks like a situation that can be brought under control. Expert opinions increasingly appear to attest to this fact.

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