India on Sunday recorded 1,195 positive cases of covid-19, the most in a single day, taking the total to 9,020. The viral disease has claimed 306 lives so far, with 59 people succumbing to the disease during the day.

The number of coronavirus cases in India has surged at least 10-fold during the 21-day nationwide lockdown that runs through Tuesday, with the daily increase in the number of cases rising in sync with the government ramping up of testing for the virus.

The government was testing 1,200 samples a day when the country initially reported local transmission of covid-19 cases. Testing was gradually increased to 10,000 samples a day and this coincided with an increase in the number of cases.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had earlier said that testing for covid-19 should be ramped up in districts reporting high number of cases. The apex biomedical research agency on Sunday said that a total of 195,748 samples have been tested so far. “In the last five days, on an average, 15,747 samples were tested per day and 584 of those were found to be positive,” said Dr. Manoj V. Murheka of ICMR.

To augment capacity, it has been decided to distribute the responsibility of testing samples evenly across government and private medical colleges of eminence on an urgent basis, the ministry of health and family welfare said on Sunday.

“These institutions are expected to serve as mentors of the medical colleges in their allotted area and facilitate the establishment of covid-19 testing facilities in the respective states. The government has directed them to work in coordination with the state governments,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the health ministry.

The government on Sunday also said that it is focusing on increasing the capacity of primary medical infrastructure, including dedicated hospitals, isolation beds, intensive care unit (ICU) beds and quarantine facilities. This is part of steps being taken to be prepared for admissions and treatment for patients to tackle the pandemic.

“As on today, while the requirement of beds for 8,356 cases is estimated to be 1,671 (20% of confirmed cases with moderate and severe/critical clinical symptoms), the present availability of beds is 105,980 in 601 dedicated covid-19 hospitals across the country,” said Agarwal. The number of isolation beds in dedicated hospitals across the country is being further augmented, he said.

There are 250 beds, including 50 ICU beds and 70 ventilators, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Agarwal said. In Safdarjang Hospital, one complete block, which has 500 beds, has been converted into a covid-19 block. “We have provided 1,680 beds to Andhra Pradesh,” he said.

“There were 148 ventilators available. We provided 444 additional ventilators. One special medical officer has been appointed in every state. Waterproof tents are also available in far flung areas and two patients can be kept in one tent,” Agarwal said. About 20,000 train coaches will be converted into isolation wards with 5,000 coaches to be converted in first phase, he said.

Healthcare personnel are also being trained through institutes of national importance such as AIIMS and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences. Online training modules and webinars for ventilator management, clinical management, infection prevention control, biomedical waste management and epidemiology have been organized by these institutions. Mock drills have also been organised to prepare the frontline medical workers.

Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil, a noted epidemiologist and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology, ICMR said, “The question arises whether the increase in positive cases is due to the functional number of tests that we are carrying out these days compared to what we were doing. On the other hand, it could also mean the rate of infection in the population is increasing, which is expected in any epidemic. In the final analysis this must be an effect both these phenomena.”

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