India testing 23.7 people per lakh population, much higher than WHO guidelines, says ICMR

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India has been testing around 23.7 people per lakh population, which is much higher than the World Health Organization’s guidelines of testing 14 people per lakh population, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said in the second edition of its internal newsletter, e-Samvaad.

“The testing has also been increased in the areas where the infection is more than 10 per cent,” it said. The ICMR is the country’s apex health research body.

Lauding its own efforts in an editorial published on the front page of the latest issue, ICMR has said, “Despite the notion that a developing country like India will not be able to fight Covid19, ICMR has set an example in front of the world by putting up a valiant face of India…”

In the editorial titled ‘ICMR breaks the global perception in war against COVID-19’, the government body further said, “ICMR is taking on this pandemic head-on with its full might. The entire focus of the institute is on increased testing. The situation is largely under control except in a few states. The improving situation in the National Capital Delhi is a testimony to this.”

The page-long editorial also states that India has accepted the challenge (of lack of resources) and worked sincerely to reverse the scenario. “Now, India has sufficient dedicated COVID hospitals, testing labs and necessary logistics for treatment,” it concluded.

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According to ICMR, the newsletter is being published with the aim of providing the “latest updates from the ICMR’s initiatives and institutes across the country”. The first issue of June was released on 2 July.

While the previous issue had a column by ICMR’s director general Balram Bhargava, the column is missing in the latest edition. Bhargava is designated as the patron of e-Samvaad.

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Focus on triple Ts — Testing, Treatment and Tracking
Since the beginning of the lockdown, the article said, “ICMR has focused on triple T – ‘Testing, Treatment and Tracking’.”

“This is the reason India is still in a better position than many other countries,” it said while subsequently clarifying that “though the number of infections has registered an increase over the last two months, this is happening solely due to enhanced testing. India has so far tested over one crore fifty lakh samples.”

Detailing its efforts of establishing testing labs in the remotest parts of the country and equipping its Mumbai, Kolkata and Noida institutes with high-tech testing machines, the article added that “ICMR’s effort is paying a dividend as the recovery rate has continuously been increasing in India”.

Big healthcare systems collapsed but India emerged stronger
The editorial published in the latest edition recounts the entry of Covid-19 into India and availability of resources then while comparing the progress made in the last seven months.

“When the first case of coronavirus was reported in India back in January this year, experts from across the world said that the country with 130 crore population will bow down to this pandemic,” it has said “The statement appeared true to many as the country had (back then) only one lab to test COVID-19.”

The editorial detailed the collapse of the world renowned healthcare systems while hailing the progress made by India.

“This pandemic had either broken the backbone of many developed countries or brought them on the verge of collapse,” it said. “Even the healthcare system of Italy, which is counted among the leading countries in terms of health facilities, had collapsed. At the same time, the condition of the USA, which spends around 4 trillion dollar on its health facilities, is deteriorating day by day.”

The health research body recounted that “in such a prevalent scenario, it was common for experts to have the notion that a developing country like India with average healthcare facilities will not be able to fight this invisible enemy”.

“We can recall that during February and March, India had a lack of resources for prevention and containing the spread of COVID-19. Neither did we have logistics as per standard, neither testing lab nor dedicated COVID hospital for treatment,” it said.

However, it lauded its own efforts by adding that the ICMR has set an example in “the front of the world by putting up a valiant face of India showing how to fight emerging diseases with efficient mechanism and determination despite limited resources”.