There has been a steady decline in the positivity rate of COVID-19 despite an exponential increase in testing, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday, underlining that the number of active cases of the infection have reduced by 6,423 in a day for the first time.
Presenting a mortality analysis on the basis of age and gender, Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said COVID-19 fatalities include 69 percent male and 31 percent female. "Thirty-six percent of the deaths have been reported in the age group between 45-60 years and 51 percent deaths in people aged 60 and above. Eleven percent deaths were reported in the age group of 26-44 years and 1 percent each among people aged 18-25 and those below 17," he said addressing a press briefing.
The testing for the disease has been increased from 363 tests per million per day on August 1 to more than 600 tests per million per day at present, Bhushan said, with India having tested nearly 3.7 crore cumulative COVID-19 samples so far.
Bhushan said that on the basis of a seven-day rolling average, the positivity rate of COVID-19 has come down to eight percent now from 11 percent during the first week of August. "While the tests for detection of COVID-19 have increased exponentially, there has been a steady decline in the positivity rate. For the first time, active cases of COVID-19 have reduced by 6,423 in a span of 24 hours," he said.
Bhushan also said 2.70 percent of the active cases of the infection are on oxygen support, while 1.92 percent are in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and 0.29 percent are on ventilators. He said the recovered COVID-19 cases are 3.4 times the number of active cases.
Asked whether the Russian government has placed any formal request for the manufacturing of its COVID-19 vaccine in India, Bhushan said as far as the vaccine Sputnik V developed is concerned, "both the countries (India and Russia) are in communication". "Some initial information has been shared while some detailed information is awaited," he said.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Dr Balram Bhargava asserted that "irresponsible and less cautious" people who were not wearing masks and not maintaining social distancing were "driving the pandemic in India".
On augmentation of the testing capacity, he said gradually the testing capacity was increased and on August 21 it finally reached the landmark of testing one million COVID-19 samples in a day.
"COVID-19 testing capacity has increased significantly, from 10 tests per day on January 30 to touching 1 million tests per day on August 21," Bhargava said.
"We have 1,524 COVID testing laboratories in India and as on August 25 and 3,68,27,520 tests have been done," he said.
Rapid antigen tests comprise around 30-40 percent of the total daily tests conducted for detection of COVID-19 in the country at present, he said, adding that RT-PCR tests are also growing.
"With Indian startups coming forward, we've been able to deploy large number of indigenous kits wherein they have brought down costing of COVID tests. RT-PCR testing kit cost around Rs 2,000 in March, now it is Rs 300," he said.
Responding to a question on reports of reinfection in Hong Kong, Bhargava said there is no need to be "alarmed immensely".
"We have read with interest the reports of reinfection in one case in Hong Kong. We are learning more and more about the disease as we go ahead. It can depend on several factors, one of all can be related to the patient itself, how is his immunity, how was his immune status, was it compromised. It can also depend upon the virus, whether the virus has mutated or turned virulent," he said.
However, he said this was only one instance of re-infection and that is very rare for viral infections. Bhargava further said that ICMR has embarked on a second national sero survey which shall be completed by the first week of September.
Responding to a question on whether India was willing to making any upfront payment for global COVAX plan for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, the health secretary said that according to the World Health Organisation, 172 member countries have become part of COVAX facility.
"To the best of my knowledge there is no reference to countries making upfront payments in COVAX nor have the countries been requested by COVAX authorities in this regard," he said.
COVAX is an arrangement brought about by WHO, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and GAVI vaccine alliance which works on the principle of pooling the demand of member countries for vaccines on one hand and on the other pooling the supply of certain shortlisted vaccine candidates, Bhargava said.
"They have so far shortlisted nine such vaccines whose manufacturing capacities they have ascertained, and therefore they have done a projected pooling of what would be available and they have also done a pooling of the projected demand," he said.
With 60,975 people testing positive for coronavirus infection in a day, India's COVID-19 tally rose to 31,67,323 on Tuesday, while recoveries have surged to 24,04,585 pushing the recovery rate over 75.92 percent, according to health ministry data.
The death-toll has climbed to 58,390, with 848 fatalities being reported in a span of 24-hours, the data updated at 8 am showed. However, according to a PTI tally, compiled from the data provided by state governments, India's COVID-19 case count has crossed the 32 lakh mark.