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Coronavirus in India: ICMR data raises questions on COVID-19 infection rate

E Kumar Sharma     April 4, 2020

At a time when experts across the country are seeking data on the big denominator - state-wise breakup of the people tested and number of positive cases and the exact status of the availability of PPE - all that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is sharing on its website is total number of samples and positive cases across India.

"A total of 69,245 samples have been tested as on 03 April 2020, 9 PM IST. 2653 individuals have been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases in India. Today, on 03 April 2020, till 9 PM IST, 10,034 samples were tested and reported. Of these, 575 were positive for SARS-CoV-2," the ICMR shared on its website as of Friday.

Now, unless the source of the sample is indicated, one would assume that the hit rate has gone up from 3.8 per cent (2,653 positives from a 69,245 sample) to 5.7 per cent (575 from a 10,034 sample).

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The sharp jump seems to have happened on account of samples being collated and put out by private testing laboratories or due to a cluster group being tested from April 3. Unless, ICMR becomes more transparent and shares data beyond the broad numbers, there are all reasons to raise questions that need urgent answers. One only assumes that ICMR has all the state level data and the details of the samples because that is the only hope for life and strategies in a post lockdown period. Data is critical for formulating any physical distancing strategy or patient care strategies going forward.

Even on the crucial World Health Organisation (WHO) Solidarity trial, all that the ICMR has to say is: "ICMR will collaborate with the World Health Organisation for public health emergency SOLIDARITY TRIAL - An international randomised trial of additional treatments for COVID-19 in hospitalised patients."

The trial will be coordinated in India by Sheela Godbole, Scientist F, ICMR National AIDS Research Institute, Pune.

The WHO website and tweets by WHO experts have more to inform on the treatment options and the companies participating than the ICMR.

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