The nationwide tally of confirmed coronavirus infections crossed 30,000 on Tuesday and the death toll was seen inching towards 1,000 with Maharahstra, Gujarat and some other states reporting more fatalities, but hopes for any immediate cure were dashed after the Health Ministry said there is not enough evidence as yet to back plasma therapy as its treatment.
The Ministry also cautioned there could be life-threatening complications if proper guidelines are not followed in administering the plasma therapy, in which blood plasma is transfused from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a critically-ill person.
The therapy, which is currently in trial stage, works on a principle that immunity can be transferred from a healthy person to a sick patient using antibodies in convalescent plasma.
As per the latest figures announced by various states and union territories, more than 30,200 people have been tested positive for this deadly virus across the country. At least 947 have died, but more than 7,000 have recovered.
The figures suggest that an average of about one in 25 has tested positive so far. Among those having tested positive, one in 30 has died on an average, while the ratio of those having recovered is approximately one in four.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
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.
There has been a widespread hope that plasma therapy can be a possible treatment for COVID-19 after the Delhi government said it has seen encouraging results on some patients, while few other states including Rajasthan and Karnataka have also begun the trials.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed officials on Tuesday itself to encourage use of plasma therapy, while steps are already underway at various places to create 'plasma banks'. Several people who have recovered after contracting the virus have offered to donate their plasma for treatment of others.
At his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has launched a national-level study to check efficacy of the plasma therapy, but till this study is completed and a robust scientific proof is available, this therapy should be used only for research or trial purpose.
"If plasma therapy is not used in a proper manner under proper guidelines, then it can also cause life threatening complications," Agarwal said.
The Health Ministry official, however, said the recovery rate of COVID-19 patients has as such improved to 23.3 per cent of total cases.
In its 5 PM update, the Ministry said the COVID-19 death toll has risen to 937, after more than 50 deaths since Monday evening including in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir, while the number of cases has climbed to 29,974. According to the ministry data, 1,594 new cases have been reported since Monday evening.
The number of active COVID-19 cases stands at 22,010, while 7,026 people have recovered, and one patient has migrated, the ministry said.
However, a PTI tally of figures reported by various states and UTs, as of 8 PM, showed 30,255 confirmed cases, including 947 deaths and 7,078 recoveries.
Maharashtra has reported the maximum cases at over 8,500 and at least 369 deaths. Gujarat has over 3,700 cases, while Delhi also has more than 3,100 confirmed cases. Each of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have reported more than 2,000 cases.
A 55-year-old Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel also died on Tuesday due to coronavirus infection. This is the first COVID-19 death reported in paramilitary forces that function under the Union Home Ministry for upkeep of internal security and border guarding.
A nationwide lockdown has been imposed till May 3 by the government to check the spread of this deadly virus, which has claimed more than two lakh lives worldwide and over 30 lakh people have got infected since it first emerged in China last December.
Several countries have implemented lockdown and other containment measures, though some of them including New Zealand, France and Switzerland have begun relaxing those curbs.
In the coming days, some clarity is expected to emerge about the ongoing lockdown in India.
In Delhi, Lt Governor (LG) Anil Baijal directed all district magistrates to implement a "micro-containment zone strategy" in their respective areas to arrest the spread of COVID-19, an official said. Under this plan, small clusters reporting cases of the dreaded virus will be identified and declared containment zones instead of big ones.
At present, the authorities block the entry and exit points of an area where COVID-19 cases emerge and people are not allowed to step out of their houses. Essential items are delivered at the doorstep.
The national capital also saw the NITI Aayog building getting sealed for 48 hours, after a director-level officer tested positive.
In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state as people have a casual attitude to norms like social distancing and do not understand the gravity of the contagion.
The state reported 121 more people testing positive on Tuesday, taking the state's tally to 2,058, while a 68-year old man died of coronavirus in Chennai. The new positive cases included two police personnel and a flower vendor in Chennai.
In Assam, where few new cases have emerged in the last few days, two persons tested positive, taking its total to 37. Some of the north-eastern states have not reported a single case for quite some time.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath asked officials to increase testing capacity. He also sought preparation of work plans to restart industrial units after May 3 and for giving employment to migrant labourers. He also said emphasis should be on social distancing and continued patrolling by the police.
In Surat, Gujarat, hundreds of migrant workers came out on roads and vandalised the office of an under-construction building and some vehicles while demanding that they be sent back to their native places.
West Bengal saw attacks on some policemen trying to enforce lockdown in 'red zone' Howarah district. The state reported 28 new cases, taking its total to 663, while the number of fatalities rose to 22 with two new deaths.
Separately, the Union Health Ministry asked all states and Union territories to ensure that health facilities, especially in the private sector, remain functional and those needing critical healthcare such as dialysis, blood transfusion and chemotherapy are not denied such services amid the ongoing lockdown.
This followed reports that many hospitals in the private sector were hesitating in providing critical services to their regular patients either on account of fear of contracting COVID-19 or because they are keeping their hospitals or clinics closed.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.