There is no significant community transmission of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India, experts in the Union ministry of health have confirmed, even as India reported its 31 positive case on Friday.

That means each of the 31 cases can be traced back to its possible point of origin.

Experts say widespread community transmission is usually a cause for concern.

A senior scientist with the health ministry said on condition of anonymity that the transmission of infection is still restricted to clusters.

“Community transmission that we are seeing in India has not reached the alarming stage where we cannot trace the source of infection. We are keeping a close watch on the situation which is developing every hour, and what is currently seen in India is called cluster transmission,” he said.

Some of the transmissions are happening locally, but are still not of a scale to cause concern.

“…in addition to Covid-19 cases related to travel, some cases of community transmission have also been observed, it has been decided to involve district collectors and States have been asked to form rapid response teams at the district, block and village levels. Private sector shall also be engaged for Covid-19 management,” a health ministry statement said. The reference here is about transmission of infection from one person to another locally, but can’t strictly be termed community transmission in the scientific sense of the term — the emergence of patients with no travel history or clear link to another infected person or carrier.

In a paper on community transmission of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, Shenzhen, China, 2020, in ‘Emerging Infectious Disease’ journal, the US Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta analyzed data for the first 365 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shenzhen, to summarize the epidemiologic characteristics and provide updated information to aid in the development of control measures.“Overall, most (91%) cases that we report had definite exposure,” the report added.

On January 14, the first patient without definite exposure was reported in Shenzhen. Since January 20, growing numbers of cases without definite exposure were observed.

“Compared with before January 24, the proportion of case-patients without definite exposure was much higher from January 25 through February 5 (11% vs. 6%; p<0.001) and increased to 36% (12/33) on both January 31 and February 5. These data suggest an increasing risk for community transmission,” the paper explained.

That’s what India is watching closely.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also raised its assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of Covid-19 to very high at the global level.

“…at present, we see linked epidemics in several countries, where most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases, although we see signs of community transmission in some countries,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general, WHO, had said in a briefing on Covid-19 a couple of days ago.

“Our view continues to be that containment of Covid-19 must be the top priority for all countries, but at the same time, countries should be preparing for (dealing with) sustained community transmission.”

As on March 6, 2020, India had tested a total of 4058 samples from 3404 people, of which 31 have tested positive.

The experts do not deny there is human-to-human transmission of infection in India but say that it cannot be termed community transmission yet.

“The government has managed to track down the index case in all the reported cluster infections locally, so that way we have not yet reached the stage where we must worry. It can be contained and the government is making adequate efforts,” the scientist cited in the first instance added.

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