"We have to learn to live with the virus," the government said on Friday, urging people to make COVID-19 prevention guidelines a part of their lives as a behavioural change amid easing of lockdown restrictions and migrant labourers returning home.
Addressing a press conference, joint secretary in the health ministry Lav Agarwal said there has been a reduction in the doubling time of COVID-19 cases in the country from 12 days till two days ago to 10 now because of the spike in cases at some places, even as he asserted that the peak of the disease can be avoided if the prescribed dos and don'ts are followed.
"As we talk of relaxations to the lockdown and of migrant workers returning back to their respective homes, there is a big challenge in front of us that we also have to learn to live with the virus," he said.
"And when we are talking about learning to live with the virus then it is very important that the guidelines that are there on saving oneself from the virus are adopted in the community as a behavioural change," Agarwal said.
It is a big challenge and the government needs community support for it, he said.
Giving district-wise situation of coronavirus cases, Agarwal said there are 216 districts in which no COVID-19 case has been reported till date.
The health ministry on May 1 classified 733 districts in the country as 130 in the red zone, 284 in the orange zone and 319 in the green zone, taking into consideration incidence of cases of COVID-19, doubling rate, extent of testing and surveillance feedback.
Forty-two districts have had no fresh cases in the last 28 days while 29 districts have reported no new cases of COVID-19 in the last 21 days. Also, 36 districts have not registered any fresh cases in the last 14 days and 46 districts have had no fresh cases in the last seven days, he said.
Asked about AIIMS Delhi Director, Dr Randeep Guleria's remarks citing modelling data that the peak of the disease in India may be reached in June or July, Agarwal said, "If we follow the prescribed dos and don'ts, we may not reach the peak in number of COVID-19 cases and our curve may remain flat."
If the precautions are not taken and guidelines are not followed properly, there can be chances of spike in cases, he warned, stressing that community support and field action should continue so that the country does not reach the peak
Responding to a question on how many cases India may witness if the peak comes in June- July, the official said different organisations have projected a figure of some thousands to some crores based on their analysis.
"They are widely varying that determining field level action based on that will be slightly difficult. We do an analysis based on the current growth rate of cases and doubling rate, according to analysis, our doubling rate is now 10 days and simultaneously, we do an analysis of districts and cities where cases are rising.
"On the basis of that we see where more action and additional efforts are required to increase the doubling time of cases," Agarwal said.
Stating that some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have witnessed a rise in cases during the last few days, Agarwal stressed the need to strengthen containment efforts to stop the rise, along with proper adherence to measures such as physical distancing at field level.
"As migrant workers return to their respective home states, it is essential that during movement all precautions regarding infection prevention and management are taken and the rules at the quarantine and isolation facilities are followed," Agarwal said.
"We request workers to understand that this is for their own benefit, their people, village and city. They should follow physical distancing, hand, respiratory and environmental hygiene and support the local administration," he said.
Providing details on recovered patients, Agarwal said India's recovery rate stands at 29.36 per cent with 16,540 COVID-19 patients having cured till now, including 1,273 who recovered in the last 24 hours.
He said 3.2 per cent of total active COVID-19 cases are on oxygen support, 4.2 per cent in ICU and 1.1 per cent on ventilator:
A total of 3,390 COVID-19 cases and 103 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours till Friday 8 am, taking the total number of cases to 56,342 and death toll to 1,886, according to the ministry.
Agarwal also said that the ICMR will conduct randomised controlled clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients in 21 hospitals.
The hospitals where the trials will be conducted comprise five from Maharashtra, four from Gujarat, two each from Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, UP and one each from Karnataka, Chandigarh, Punjab, Telangana.
During the briefing, Agarwal also said the railways has converted 5,231 coaches into COVID Care Centres which will be placed at 215 identified railway stations and will be used for treatment of very mild and mild COVID19 patients.