Don’t use Plasma Therapy to treat Coronavirus COVID19 patients: Union Health Ministry

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New Delhi, 28 Apr 2020 : The number of COVID-19 positive cases stands at 29,435 as on date, while 21,632 people are under active medical supervision as on today. 6,868 people have recovered till date, which takes up the recovery rate to around 23.3%. In the last 24 hours, 1,543 new cases and 684 recoveries have been reported. This was informed by the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Lav Agarwal, at the daily media briefing on the actions taken, preparedness and updates on COVID-19, held at National Media Centre, PIB New Delhi today. As on today, there are 17 districts that did not have a fresh case in the last 28 days or more. Two districts have been added to this list, which are Kalimpong in West Bengal and Wayanad in Kerala, while Lakhisarai district in Bihar has reported a positive case and has been dropped from the list. Stating these, the Joint Secretary called for maintaining constant vigil in all districts and states.

The Joint Secretary informed that Health Ministry has issued guidelines for home isolation of people who either have very mild COVID-19 symptoms or are in pre-symptomatic phase. Such patients with requisite self-isolation facility at their residence will now have option for home isolation. There are certain conditions to be fulfilled, for a very mild or pre-symptomatic COVID-19 patient to be eligible for home isolation, which are prescribed in the guidelines. These include regular reporting of health status, use of Aarogya Setu Mobile App, 24/7 caregiver at residence and submission of an undertaking for maintenance of proper hygiene, among others.

Stating that the World Health Organisation data shows that the combined population of 20 nations where maximum number of COVID-19 cases has been found is almost same as India’s population, the Joint Secretary said, these nations have together reported 84 times the number of cases reported in India. Aggarwal also said, in comparison to these 20 nations, India has reported only 1/200 times the total number of deaths that occurred in these 20 countries. This has been possible because of India’s pro-active, pre-emptive and graded approach, coupled with Centre-state coordination, and the contribution of frontline workers and all citizens who are following lockdown measures, said the Joint Secretary. It is a battle we are fighting every day and there is no scope for any relaxation in our response and momentum, he further remarked.

The Joint Secretary also stated:

Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan today took a meeting with Department of Biotechnology and the Directors of its 18 autonomous bodies and PSUs. He asked them to fast-track development of antibody detection kits, RT-PCR detection kits and COVID-19 vaccine, under Make in India scheme.

Health Minister also held a meeting with Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Health Minister of Delhi, Corporation Commissioners, DMs and DCPs and Directors of all Central and State Government hospitals in Delhi and reviewed status of surveillance of COVID-19.

Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ms. Punya Salila Srivastava informed the progress of Inter Ministerial Central Teams for Ahmedabad and Surat. She stated:

IMCT at Surat found that administration is using modern techniques to identify and track COVID-19 cases. Data of private and government hospitals, urban health centres, door-to-door survey, active surveillance and Gemini mobile app are being plotted in GIS map for a detailed analysis, on basis of which future activities are being planned. IMCT has found that local administration is carrying out extensive testing so that COVID cases may be identified right from the beginning. Surat Nagar Nigam war-room and a special team of doctors are exclusively engaged in this work. IMCT has also visited hospitals, containment zones, testing facilities etc. They found that lockdown measures are being implemented; apart from setting up pickets, police are using modern technologies, including drones and CCTVs to implement lockdown. They have also advised administration about being stricter for effective implementation of lockdown in certain areas. Administration, industry and NGOs have arranged for food packets and rations for migrant workers in Surat. It is commendable that social distancing norms are being well-observed during distribution of these materials. IMCT has advised local administration that lockdown advisories be given to migrant workers in their mother-tongues. IMCT has held discussions with administration, public representatives and industry, especially textiles and diamond industry which are major source of employments for the labourers. Most of the labourers have received their last month’s salary. IMCT has advised administration to make planning about future strategies too.

IMCT at Ahmedabad has visited hospitals, care centres, blood donation camps, shelter homes, primary health centres etc. They also visited the check-points at highways and entry-points at quarantine clusters, where they have found joint set-up of police and medical teams. They have visited civil hospitals where they spoke with family members of patients. Hospital facilities have been found to be satisfactory, patients’ relatives have also expressed satisfaction regarding facilities. At COVID Care Centres, they found adequate strength of staff and adequate facility to transport patients having COVID-19 symptoms to dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, if required. 19-20 patients have been shifted to such hospitals till now. Social Distancing is being maintained at the blood donation camps set-up by Indian Red Cross Society. Administration has taken a number of steps for surveillance and identification of vulnerable population, like house-to-house survey, using of electoral rolls, project lifeline data, nikshay poshan yojana data, TeCHO+ data etc, by which vulnerable population have been identified and their testing is being done. They found a mobile testing van in primary health centre, which has been re-engineered to suit the current needs and safety requirements. IMCT has suggested that with the help of the Centre, the state government may set up a COVID-19 testing facility at Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Multi-specialty Hospital. IMCT has found that lockdown is being strongly implemented and police has employed modern technologies to keep a check on it. They visited the shelter homes at Kathwada and Naroda and found all required facilities including yoga is being provided. There are 33 such shelter homes. IMCT has suggested that labourers be sent to shelter homes in a manner so that social distancing can be ensured to the maximum extent possible. In rural areas of Ahmedabad, a ‘gram-yoddha samiti’ has been formed; their members include sarpanch, village head-man, health workers and headmaster among others. They deliver ration, vegetables, medicines at the doorsteps of villagers while observing lockdown. They are also keeping an eye on the implementation of lockdown and the movements in their respective villages. IMCT has suggested that this initiative may be taken in other states as well. Pharmaceutical industries are working at Sanand industrial belt. Now automobile industries have also started functioning with a strength of around 50% workforce. Almost 30,000 out of 50,000 labourers have joined work. The IMCT has held discussions with senior officers of the state administration and given their suggestions.

The Joint Secretary stated categorically that plasma therapy is not approved and must not be used to treat COVID-19 patients. “ICMR has stated very clearly that there is no approved therapy for COVID-19, including plasma therapy. There is no evidence at present to use this as a treatment. The Council has launched an experimental study on the efficacy of Plasma Therapy as a treatment for COVID-19. Till the study is approved, no one should use it. Doing so can be harmful to the patient, it can have life-threatening complications if it is not used as per proper process and guidelines. Moreover, using plasma therapy before its approval would also be illegal. Till then, it is unjustified to spread any claim about the effectiveness of this therapy.”

To a question about whether a recovered patient can get re-infected, the Joint Secretary replied: “Globally, the number of cases of COVID-19 reinfection is very minuscule, hence, in absence of conclusive evidence, we have to surely consider that those patients who have been certified as cured as per RT-PCR – the gold standard for COVID-19 – are perfectly alright.”.

On reuse of workplaces where infections were reported, Aggarwal informed that they can be used after proper disinfection is carried out. “If a COVID-19 patient is found to be infected at any health facility, the facility can be reused after proper disinfection procedures. Similarly, workplaces too where positive patients were found can be used after proper disinfection is done.”

The Joint Secretary informed that the doubling time of COVID-19 cases in India was around 3 – 3.25 days before lockdown, and that now it is around 10.2 days. This is mainly because of our focus on containment, physical distancing and lockdown measures, he said.