Almost a quarter of people in New Delhi have had the coronavirus, according to a study that cast serious doubt on the official numbers both in the megacity and across India.
India last week became the third country after the United States and Brazil to hit one million cases but many experts have long said that with testing rates low, the true number could be much higher.
Random sampling reveals a quarter of Delhiites have had COVID
Blood tests on 21,387 randomly selected people across Delhi conducted by the National Center for Disease Control found that 23.48 percent of them had IgG antibodies — indicating past exposure to the virus.
With Delhi’s population of more than 20 million, the findings published Tuesday by the federal health ministry suggest that 4.7 million people have had the virus, almost 40 times the official tally of 125,000.
Read more: Coronavirus caseload leaves India blushing
While praising government restrictions that have limited the spread of the virus, the ministry said the study “indicates that a large number of infected persons remain asymptomatic”.
The survey was conducted between June 27 and July 10.
And more than 75 percent are still vulnerable, including those at higher risk, Sujeet Kumar Singh, head of the National Centre for Disease Control, told a news conference.
India: one million cases and counting
On Wednesday, India’s health ministry reported a total of 1.19 million coronavirus cases so far with almost 29,000 deaths.
Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu states are the worst affected.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March, but it has been steadily eased in recent months to lessen the devastating economic impact.
But, independently from the federal government, states have been tightening restrictions as case numbers have soared — including in Bangalore, Bihar, West Bengal and parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
At a time when India is under #Lockdown with a quarter million + infections of #Coronavirus, Delhi Police under the orders of the Govt for which @MrsGandhi is a twitter-troll has arrested a pregnant woman on false charges https://t.co/nrDRjOiJHH
— JayEnAar (@GorwayGlobal) June 9, 2020
Daily new cases have been steadily falling in recent weeks, with fewer than 1,000 new infections recorded on Tuesday — the first time in 49 days — down from a peak of almost 4,000 in late June.
India deploys ‘smart helmets’ to screen for coronavirus
As coronavirus infections climb in Mumbai, authorities in India’s worst-hit city are turning to high-tech “smart helmets” to speed up screenings and identify suspected cases in the financial capital’s densely-populated slums.
The portable thermoscanners — previously deployed in Dubai, Italy and China — enable health workers to record the temperatures of dozens of residents per minute and could emerge as a key weapon in Mumbai’s quest to eradicate the virus from the city of 18 million.
“Traditional screening methods take a lot of time. You go to a slum with 20,000 people and it takes you three hours to screen 300 people,” said Neelu Jain, a medical volunteer affiliated with the non-profit group Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana.
“But when you use these helmets, all you have to do is ask people to come out of their homes, face them and you can screen 6,000 people in two-and-a-half hours,” she told AFP.
The helmets were donated to authorities in Mumbai and the nearby city of Pune, which have both been locked in a months-long battle against the pandemic, with cases across India soaring past one million on Friday.
But with just two helmets in use in each city, the push to identify and isolate infected residents will take a long time.
The imported helmets — which cost around 600,000 rupees ($8,045) — are also in high demand in places like Dubai, said Jain, making it very difficult to expand capacity.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk