Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The latest round of the national serosurvey carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research to gauge the real extent of the Covid-19 infection in India has revealed that 67.6 % of the population above the age of six has been exposed to the virus.
When extrapolated against the actual population of about 135 crore in India, it means that over 90 crore Indians — or two out of every three people — may have already been infected with SARS CoV 2, while nearly 40-45 crore people may still be vulnerable to the disease.
It also means, as only about 3 crore Covid-19 cases were detected by early July, that for every confirmed case, nearly 30 infections were missed.
The sero surveillance carried out in the last 10 days of June and the first week of July in 70 districts across 21 states from nearly 29,000 samples has shown that the highest seropositivity or antibodies against SARS CoV 2 — 77.6 % was found in the 45-59 age group.
The figures presented by ICMR director general Balram Bhargava in a press conference on Tuesday also showed that the seroprevalence in urban areas, at 69.6%, was slightly higher than the 66.7% of people in rural areas with antibodies.
Compared to the first national serosurvey in June 2020 when the overall seropositivity had been detected in less than 1% of the population in the country, the jump in a year has been quite significant.
The last national serosurvey by the ICMR in December, 2020-January 2021 had shown that 24.1% people in India had antibodies against Covid-19.
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“There is a ray of hope but still no room for complacency,” said Bhargava while sharing the significant results and added that states, districts and areas without antibodies run the risk of infection waves.
The findings meanwhile also suggested that over half of the children, aged 6-17 years, were seropositive.
Also, 85% healthcare workers had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 but one-tenth of the healthcare workers were still unvaccinated.
#Imp: Children can handle viral infection much better than adults, it may be wise to open primary schools first; all support staff however need to be vaccinated: @ProfBhargava on opening of schools@NewIndianXpress
— Sumi Dutta (@SumiSukanya) July 20, 2021
Importantly, the survey also included those vaccinated with one or two doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
The project found that out of 12,607 adults without vaccination, 62.3 % were found to have antibodies as against 81 % with one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 89.8 % of those with two doses.
Meanwhile, authorities also stressed on the need of the state and hyperlocal sero-surveillance exercises whose findings should be used for driving Covid-19 pandemic response in every area.
“State-led sentinel sero-surveillance will inform further state-level action and state heterogeneity indicates the possibility of future waves of infection,” said Bhargava.
He also emphasised that societal, public, religious and political congregations should be avoided and only essential travels should be taken by those fully vaccinated.
Some experts meanwhile said that these results also indicate that a third nationwide Covid-19 wave may be highly unlikely unless there is a new mutant with immune escape properties and increased virulence.