New Delhi: As the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 559 and the number of cases climbed to 17,656, the Union Health Ministry said that 80 per cent of the COVID-19 patients are either asymptomatic or show mild symptoms and that is a major area of concern. Also Read - New Zealand Pacer Lockie Ferguson Gearing up For IPL if it Happens This Year

Speaking to reporters, Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the health ministry asserted that asymptomatic patients may pass on the infection to other people, hence people should maintain social distancing. Also Read - Joe Root May Miss West Indies Test to Attend Birth of Child, Ben Stokes Could Captain England

“On the basis of worldwide analysis, 80 per cent of the COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic or show mild symptoms. Around 15 per cent patients turn into severe cases and 5 per cent may become critical,” the Health Ministry official said, adding that as of now, there is no plan to further widen the testing criteria. Also Read - ICC Men's T20 World Cup Isn't Going to Happen This Year: Dean Jones

Head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar also stated that 80 out of 100 infected people do not show any symptoms.

Health experts said that lockdown and social distancing are the only way to prevent transmission from asymptomatic cases in a populous country like Indian with limited testing capacity.

Dr Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, claimed that as many as 25 per cent of people infected with the new coronavirus remain asymptomatic. In a recent interview, Redfield had said,”That’s important, because now you have individuals that may not have any symptoms that can contribute to transmission”.

According to Dr Neha Gupta, Consultant, Infectious Disease, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, 25-50 per cent patients do not have any symptoms as per CDC and Iceland data, and are contagious. Speaking to a news agency, Gupta said,”That’s why lockdown is even more essential to prevent transmission from these likely to be missed out asymptomatic cases when the population is large and testing capacity is limited.”

“Lockdown restrictions can be eased out in areas where no COVID 19 is documented in the last 14 days as most cases take this to recover. But the incubation period can be as long as 27 days and 2.5 per cent of the COVID-19 can develop infections beyond the 14-day incubation period,” she informed.

India is currently under an extended lockdown till May 3.

(With agency inputs)