Weeks before they were expected to deliver, 13 pregnant women in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag district tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Saturday. Seven of them were residents of a COVID-19 hotspot, leading to fears over community transmission in the area.
The 13 women were among 160new novel coronavirus cases detected across J&K over the past two days; Saturday recorded 108 cases, the biggest single-day spike in new cases since the outbreak began. Overall, 1,180 cases have been reported from J&K, with 13 deaths linked to the virus; a 27-year-old woman died in Srinagar today.
"Of the 12 pregnant women who tested positive, seven are from one particular area that has already been designated a "red zone". Areas around this have been declared "buffer zones". We have to determine whether, in such areas, there is community spread," Dr Naveed Shah, a doctor at Srinagar's Government Chest Disease Hospital, said.
The COVID-19 status of the 13 women was detected during a widespread drive to test pregnant women in the area; earlier, two had died in Anantnag, allegedly because of medical negligence and mishandling of their cases.
"We decided to take tests of pregnant women so that we know their COVID-19 status and can plan for their deliveries under established protocols. This will be useful in avoiding complications," BA Dar, the District Magistrate, said.
Over the past week, officials have tested more than 500 pregnant women in Anantnag district alone. Testing drives that focus on expectant mothers is to be intensified in the coming days, officials added, stating this was part of an aggressive drive to contain the virus.
Across the country, over 90,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths have been reported. Over 3,500 new cases have been reported per day since May 7.
This week the government said a random survey - to check if community transmission had been reached - would be conducted across the country. The survey, to be conducted by the ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research, the nodal body in this crisis), will take 10 days.
The ICMR has maintained that community spread - in which the source of the infection is unclear - has not yet been reached. A survey conducted last month showed that many had contracted the virus without travelling abroad or having contact with those who had.
The nationwide lockdown to break the coronavirus chain of transmission was extended to May 31 on Sunday evening. It had been scheduled to end today.