Coronavirus (COVID-19 has claimed four lives and there are 43 fresh cases of the infection reported in last 24 hours, taking the tally to 649, Union health ministry said on March 26, but asserted that the rate of increase in the positive cases was "relatively stable" in India.
The Union health ministry officials also said India was at the second stage as there is still no "hard evidence" to say that there has been community transmission of the fast-spreading coronavirus, remarks which may provide anxious citizens with much needed assurance and hope.
As the virus kept extending its footprint, the Central and state governments unleashed measures on a war-footing. While the Union finance ministry unveiled a Rs 1.70 lakh crore economic package involving free foodgrain and cooking gas to poor for the next three months, one-time doles to women and poor senior citizens among other benefits. The health ministry also announced that 17 states have started to earmark hospitals for dedicated treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Addressing a media briefing on the COVID-19 situation, health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said,"there is still no hard evidence to say there has been community transmission of coronavirus in India” and assured that the country was geared to tackle the coronavirus challenge.
He said,"forty-two fresh coronavirus cases and four deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported in the last 24 hours. Total number of cases stands at 649."
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Though the cases of coronavirus are increasing in India, but "we are realising that the rate at which cases are increasing...seeing relatively a stable trend or little bit reduction in the rate of increase in cases," he added.
"This, however, does not establish a clear trend. We are hopeful that by following social distancing policy, conducting a proper contact tracing and by ensuring all people at home quarantine are monitored, we will be able to combat the disease," he said.
India is under a complete lockdown for 21 days since March 25, in a desperate measure to contain the spread of the virus. Globally, the death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 21,293 with more than 471,518 cases reported in over 170 countries and territories, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The ministry stated that 13 COVID-19 deaths were reported so far in the country. Maharashtra reported three deaths, Gujarat two, while Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh reported one death each.
According to the data, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 593, while 42 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated.
The total number of 649 cases included 47 foreign nationals, the ministry said.
Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases so far at 124, including three foreign nationals, followed by Kerala, where the number of cases has climbed up to 118, including eight foreign nationals, according to the ministry data.
The number of cases in Telangana has gone up to 41, including 10 foreigners.
Karnataka has reported 41 cases, while the number of cases in Gujarat has climbed to 38, including a foreigner.
The number of cases in Rajasthan has increased to 38, including two foreigners. Uttar Pradesh has reported 37 cases, including a foreigner, while the number of positive cases in Delhi has gone up to 35, including a foreigner.
Punjab has reported 33 cases, while 30 cases have so far been detected in Haryana, including 14 foreigners.
The number of cases has climbed to 26 Tamil Nadu, including six foreigners. Madhya Pradesh has recorded 15 cases, Ladakh 13, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have reported 11 cases each, while West Bengal has nine COVID-19 patients.
Chandigarh has reported seven cases so far and Uttarakhand five, including a foreigner.
Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh have reported three cases each, while two cases have been detected in Odisha.
Goa has reported three coronavirus cases. Earlier, the ministry had wrongly attributed 33 cases to the coastal state. Subsequently, the figure was revised.
Puducherry, Mizoram and Manipur have reported one case each.
There are four stages of the infection -- stage 1 or imported and sporadic cases : When only those who have travelled to virus-hit countries test positive, stage 2 or local transmission: When the source of the transmission is known and can be located, usually with ones close to the patient such as family or people s/he have come in contact with. Those who test positive at this stage are those who have a history of travel to affected countries or are in close contact with those who have.
Stage 3 or community transmission :When the source of the infection cannot be located. This happens when a patient tests positive despite no exposure to an infected person nor any history of travelling to an infected country.Many countries, including Italy and Spain have reported such cases and stage 4 : When the disease is termed an epidemic, or an outbreak so severe with no clear end point for the ongoing transmission.