'One in four Indians likely infected'

At least one in four people in India may have been infected with Covid-19 - a much higher number than official government figures suggest, the head of a leading private laboratory has said.

Dr A. Velumani said on Wednesday that an analysis of 270,000 antibody tests conducted by his company Thyrocare across India showed the presence of antibodies in an average of 26 per cent of the people, indicating they had already been exposed to the coronavirus.

"This is a much higher percentage than we had expected. The presence of antibodies is uniform across all age groups, including children," Mr Velumani told Reuters.

Thyrocare's findings are in line with government surveys done in Indian cities like Mumbai, which showed that 57 per cent of the population in its crowded slum areas had been exposed to the coronavirus.

The Thyrocare survey covers paid and tested patients, covering 600 cities in India over the last seven weeks.

If the current trend continues, the percentage of India's population having antibodies may reach 40 per cent before the end of December.

India currently has a total of 2.8 million cases, third only behind Brazil and the United States globally, but active patients are less than a fourth of its total caseload, according to health ministry figures.

On Wednesday, the world's second-most populous country reported more than 64,000 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day, with more than 1,000 deaths in the same period.

According to the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare data, recoveries have crossed the two-million mark, as the number of recovering patients has outnumbered new viral infections

At present, the number of active Covid-19 cases is less than 25 per cent of the total number of the viral infections reported since Jan 30.

"When we talk about the viral caseload of a particular country, it is always the active cases that are counted. It is never the total number of positive cases," said Mr Rajesh Bhushan, secretary in the ministry.

Around 60,000 Covid-19 patients are recovering daily, while around 55,000 new cases are being reported.

A continuous uptick in average daily recoveries has led to India's recovery rate at 73.18 per cent and a low fatality rate at 1.92 per cent.

A higher number of recoveries and declining fatality have shown that the country's graded strategy has worked, said the secretary.

India is leaving no stone unturned in developing a Covid-19 vaccine. Two home-grown vaccine candidates - Covaxin by Bharat Biotech and ZyCOV-D by Zydus Cadila - have almost finished the phase II clinical trials.

The Serum Institute of India is all set to start the phase II trial of the vaccine developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

As the whole nation is eagerly waiting for a "safe and effective" vaccine, there have been talks of "emergency authorisation" of a vaccine.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava informed members of the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs on Wednesday that phase-two clinical trials of the two indigenously developed vaccines have almost been completed and emergency authorisation of a vaccine could be considered if the Central government wants, the Press Trust of India reported.

Reuters, Indo-Asian News Service

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