The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday once again stressed that India is still in the local transmission stage of COVID-19 and added that if the country enters the community transmission stage, it would admit to it.

Briefing media on the COVID-19 situation in the country, Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Aggarwal said: “The word ‘community’ should not be used. We have to come out of semantics. Nowhere we have said there is community transmission. If there is we will be the first to inform you.”

He said the word ‘community’ could be used in a government document but in a “particular context”.

“It is not like that we are in that stage. We presently have local transmissions. Maximum patients in the country have travel history and other cases had their contact history,” he further said and added, “We should avoid the words ‘community transmission’.”

The clarification comes as a Health Ministry document said India is currently in the phase of local transmission and limited community transmission of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A document detailing the standard operating procedure (SOP), released by the Health Ministry issued late on Sunday night, said: “This SOP is applicable to current phase of COVID-19 pandemic in India (local transmission and limited community transmission), wherein as per plan of action, all suspect cases are admitted to isolation facilities.”

There are four main stages of disease outbreak. Stage 1 is imported cases where those who travelled to other countries have contracted the infection. Stage 2 is local transmission in which people coming in immediate contact of an infected person report infection. Stage 3 is called ‘community transmission’ when a person who has no travel history has contracted through domestic sources. Stage-4 is when a disease is declared an epidemic.

The government as well as the country’s top medical body, ICMR, has so far maintained that there is no evidence of community transmission of the coronavirus infection in India.

A total of 92 new cases of COVID-19 and four deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 1071 and the number of deaths to 29 in India.

The health ministry official said that there have been positive effects of social distancing and that it an “everyday battle”.

“There have been positive effects of social distancing. Despite our population, we have managed to keep the numbers low. Countries who have lesser than India’s population are witnessing more number of cases on a daily basis. But this is an everyday battle. It is has been seen globally that one person has infected more than a 100. Hence one person’s carelessness can lead to this,” Lav Aggarwal said.

Talking about the shocking incident in Bareilly, where disinfectant was sprayed on migrant labourers, the government said, “We have spoken to the DM there. Some over-zealous measures were taken and the required action is being taken against the officials involved.”

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) head scientist Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar said that the testing capacity in India is below 30 per cent.

“38,442 tests have been conducted till now out of which 3,501 were done yesterday, it means we are still at less than 30% of our testing capacity. In the last 3 days, 13,034 tests have been done in private labs,” he said.