Govt says Covid cases plateauing in some states; experts disagree

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New Delhi: A senior health ministry official pointed to recent Covid-19 case data from across India to suggest that there are early signs of improvement in the number of daily cases, and a plateauing of cases in some parts of the country, but experts said it was far too premature to arrive at any such conclusions.

“There is a relative signal of movement towards positive direction if trajectory of daily cases and deaths is analysed. On May 1 roughly about 400,000 new Covid-19 cases were reported from across the country, on May 2 it came down to 3,92,000 cases, and in past 24 hours (Sunday), we find 3,67,000 cases that shows there’s reduction in daily new cases to some extent cases,” said Lav Agarwal, joitn secretary, Union health ministry, in the regular media briefing on Covid-19. To be sure, these numbers hide a significant dip in the number of tests conducted across the three days (around 400,000), and a corresponding increase in the positivity rate, suggesting that there will likely be no let up in daily case numbers, at least not immediately.

“We have found early signs of plateauing upon analyzing the Covid-19 data; in a state or two we can also say we have seen decrease in daily new cases. Among those states you find in Chhattisgarh that used to report 15,500 daily new cases, is now reporting around 14,900 new cases. Delhi, which used to get about 25,200 cases, now is getting 24,000 cases, hinting at early plateauing signs,” added Agarwal.

Agarwal added that this is also becoming evident in the case numbers from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra , Jharkhand, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

“But these are very early signals. There is a need for further analysis ; and related efforts to monitor it on a continued basis. Similarly, if we look at reported deaths 48 hours ago then we find 3689 deaths, and in the past 24 hours, data shows 3417 deaths have been reported.

Experts say it is too early to even think of this as a trend.

“You cannot establish a trend by looking at 48-72 hours data. This could be an aberration, and needs to sustain for a few weeks before something can be declared concretely,” said a senior public health expert, requesting anonymity.

However, there also are states that are showing an upward trajectory of cases, according to Agarwal — Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Himachal Pradesh etc.

India’s active case load has also gone up, and is currently around 3.4 million, with 12 states reporting at least 100,000 active cases.

Seven states have active cases between 50,000 and 100,000, and 17 states have less than 50,000 active Covid-19 cases .

A high positivity rate is a concern many states, Agarwal said, with as many as 22 states showing a positivity rate in excess of 15% . In nine states, the positivity rate is between 5% and 15%, and only five states currently report a positivity rate of 5% or lower. These numbers also clearly indicate that cases in the country will continue to rise for some time.

“Containment efforts at the state and district level need to continue in a more stringent manner so that the disease spread is controlled. We cannot afford to drop our guard,” said Agarwal.

The media briefing also touched upon the issue of over-medication and conduction specialized tests, even when these are not required.

“There is no point in conducting a CT scan in mild cases; one may find patches in a CT image even if a person is asymptomatic (in about 30-40% of the asymptomatic cases). One CT Scan is equal to at least 300 chest X-rays in terms of radiation exposure. Also, with frequent CTs, risk of cancer in later life also increases. It is especially not advised in young patients, without the medical advice,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director, All India institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.

“…data by the international atomic energy commission for radiation protection and medicine have shown an increased risk of cancer in later life due to frequent CT scans, especially if done at a young age,” he added.

Dr Guleria also advised against getting specilaised blood tests done unnecessarily, without doctor’s advice.

“Tests like CRP, D-Dimer, LDH, Ferritin etc are also not of any use in case of mild symptoms and normal saturation levels as it only leads to panic. All these biomarkers are acute phase reactants, which means if there is any kind of inflammation in the body these markers will rise. If you get a boil or an injury, an infection in your dental cavity , then too these biomarkers will increase because it’s your body’s inflammatory response…,” he said.

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