Covid: Top docs call for fresh sero survey

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NEW DELHI/CHENNAI/MUMBAI: A day after an ICMR report created a stir in medical circles when it revealed that the country potentially had 6.4 million Covid infections in May, health professionals say there is a need for another national-level sero-survey to study the spread of the infection and that the result of the survey was declared too late for affirmative action.
The result of the country’s first sero-survey, published on Thursday in the ICMR’s Indian Journal of Medical Research, also revealed that for every confirmed case there were 82-130 infections that went undetected and that the infection had spread to rural India by June. The month-long investigation took place in the midst of the lockdown.
Dr Ulhas Kolthur of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, who is associated with the two sero-surveys conducted in Mumbai, said national-level sero-surveys should be repeated to understand the spread across regions. “Trends are likely to be different in different districts,” he said.
Epidemiologist Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil, who was a part of the sero-survey, said the results have been released too late. The survey talks about the situation in May, when the country was detecting only 1% of the cases. “At that time, they isolated and treated patients, but containment was still for 1% of the problem. The infection spread in the following months. There was a wider disconnect between what the government was doing and what it was claiming to do,” he said.
Now, increasingly, reports from other sero-studies show that the impact of the epidemic is higher in cities. “We are experiencing a true epidemic in urban areas and a silent one in rural areas. In the beginning, I had said herd immunity can be achieved if 60% of the population is affected. Now, after seeing Dharavi and other places, I think we overestimated. We will achieve herd immunity when a little more than 50% of the population is infected,” he said. This means that the virus will go away with or without containment, he said. “Containment can be comforting; the virus has not noticed it at all. And the only impact of the lockdown has been on the people, not on the pandemic.”

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