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SRINAGAR — As the second COVID-19 death in Kashmir valley had no history of travel or contact, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Sunday said it is possible this could be an instance of community spread of the novel virus.

“This may be the first case to have contracted the infection from community exposure,” said DAK President, Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

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He said the elderly male hailing from Tangmarg area of Baramulla district had developed respiratory symptoms few days back and was admitted in SMHS hospital on Wednesday with Pneumonia. His test result came positive for the novel virus and was shifted to the designated COVID-19 center at Chest Disease hospital where he died on Sunday morning because of respiratory failure.

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Dr Nisar said the deceased had no history of travel or contact with any positive case of novel coronavirus.

“This is significant because it means it is possible that the infection is spreading untraced in the local community,” he said, adding that “it is also possible, patient contracted the virus from someone who brought the infection from another country.”

“But, at this time, the deceased’s exposure is unknown,” Dr Nisar said. “We believe this to be a case of community transmission,” he added.

Dr Nisar said community transmission means when a person contracts the virus from an unknown source. The individual picks up the infection without having travelled to countries where the virus is circulating or having been in contact with a confirmed case.

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He said the need of the hour is swifter and wider testing that should not be limited to those who travelled abroad or their direct contacts. “This would be important for determining if there is an actual burden of community transmission that would allow us to take the right decision regarding our response going forward.”

He said, “The testing should be available for people who have severe respiratory illness and hospitalized patients with pneumonia, irrespective of history of travel or contact.”

“Right now, we have a very restrictive testing criterion. While the testing rate in South Korea is 6,931 tests per one million people, the testing rate in India is just 18 tests per million people,” said Dr Nisar.

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