NEW DELHI (AP) – Indian authorities are launching a large coronavirus study that removes health data from the entire New Delhi population of 29 million and tests everyone with symptoms by July 6.
The new plan was announced Wednesday after the sprawling capital became the worst-hit city in India’s pandemic with 70,390 cases, exceeding Mumbai’s financial capital.
In Delhi, 3,788 new cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, compared to 1,118 in Mumbai. India again registered a record high of 16,922 cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 473,105.
So far, the strategy in Delhi – the area that encompasses the capital – has focused on identifying containment zones or areas with large clusters of cases. But officials said less than a fifth of all cases were from the zones and more surveillance was needed.
Nearly half of the cases in Delhi were part of viral clusters and the search for them will be undertaken through “vigorous contact tracking of COVID-positive patients to analyze the reasons for clustering,” said the city authorities.
Officials said teams will go to every household to identify and test everyone with symptoms using an antigen test, a cheaper and more efficient but less accurate blood test that looks for antibodies – proteins that the body days or weeks after fighting an infection makes.
The test identifies active infections by detecting the earliest toxic traces of the virus. While acknowledging that antigen tests are not as accurate as the gold standard RT-PCR tests, officials said that “very suspicious cases” that test negative for the antigen test will receive an RT-PCR test to test a false result. Close.
Meanwhile, the new plan also provides for a reclassification of the city’s 266 containment zones. On June 18, the Delhi government began administering antigen tests in containment zones, but only for the sick. Now everyone would be tested in these areas, officials said, adding that it was not clear how many tests that would involve.
The police will be deployed to maintain physical distance and prevent the mixing of the population in containment areas. Drones would be used to ensure strict perimeter control and “absolute restrictions on the movement of the population in and out”, the city authorities said. Those who break physical distance standards will be fined.
If officials find someone confirmed to be infected, or a cluster of patients living in a densely populated area where physical distance is not possible, the plan says they will be transferred to a COVID-19 government care center.
The plan also highlights the need for additional staff for the mass exercise, saying that civil society and non-governmental organizations can be included to help monitor patients who are isolated in their homes and for early diagnosis of their contacts.
Separately, the authorities also plan to randomly test people from all age groups, including children, to look for antibodies to the coronavirus in their blood to better understand how the virus spreads. This survey is scheduled for July 10, and officials said they hoped to collect 20,000 samples.
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