Over 290 million Indians may have been infected with COVID-19, Antibodies survey finds

About one fifth of Indians may have been infected with the coronavirus, a government serological survey has found, suggesting the country’s real caseload was many times higher than reported.

At least 21 percent of the population, aged 10 years and above, showed evidence of past exposure to COVID-19 in the latest survey conducted by state run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

ICMR survey was conducted between December 7 last year and January 8.

General Dr Balram Bhargava said 21.4 percent of the 28,589 people, aged 18 years and above, surveyed during the period showed evidence of past exposure to the coronavirus infection. While 25.3 percent of children aged 10 to 17 years from the same number of surveyed population have had the disease, he said.

Urban slums reported 31.7 percent and urban non-slums 26.2 percent had been infected, while SARS-CoV-2 prevalence was 19.1 percent in rural areas.

The survey was conducted in the same 700 villages or wards in 70 districts in 21 states selected during the first and second rounds of the national serosurvey.

Separate tests done on more than 700,000 people across India by diagnostics company Thyrocare Technologies showed 55% of the country’s 1.35 billion people may have already been infected, its chief told Reuters last week.

India has officially reported 10.8 million infections, the world’s highest after the United States, though its cases have come down sharply since a mid-September peak of nearly 100,000.

The national survey, however, suggests that more than 290 million people may have already been infected in the country.

“The overall picture still shows that more than 75% of the population even now can get infected,” said Vinod Kumar Paul, who heads a government group of experts on vaccine strategy, urging people to keep maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

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