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After hitting feverish pitch, Covid testing begins to falter

Annapurani. V | | | Updated on: Jul 12, 2021

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a passenger for the Covid-19 coronavirus test after arriving at a railway platform on a long distance train in Mumbai on July 9, 2021. (Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP) | Photo Credit: PUNIT PARANJPE

Most States are reporting fewer tests since peaking of the second wave

With daily cases declining rapidly since May, complacency seems to be setting in. This is evident in the fewer number of Covid-19 tests being done in many States compared to the number of tests conducted on May 6, 2021, when the second wave of the pandemic peaked in India.

In Maharashtra, where daily cases are beginning to rise again, the seven-day average of daily tests being done now is 24 per cent lower than the number of tests conducted on May 6. Similarly, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal also witnessed a decline of 22 per cent, 20 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively, in the same period.

Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh witnessed a sharper decline of 56 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively, in daily tests.

More testing in UP, TN

On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been testing more since the May peak: daily testing in Uttar Pradesh is currently 10 per cent higher than the testing done on May 6, while Tamil Nadu is conducting 3 per cent higher number of tests.

The all-India testing levels are, however, almost unchanged since the May high; declining a mild 0.16 per cent.

“Testing is the best way to empirically monitor the spread of the infection. We should continue to test everyone who may have come in contact with a person tested positive,” said LS Shashidhara, Dean of Research and Professor of Biology, Ashoka University and Professor at IISER Pune. “In fact, I have been advocating random testing too. We should test 100-150 people randomly identified for every one lakh people at least once a week. All large workplaces such as factories, offices with 100s of employees and university campuses should also monitor people randomly testing a certain proportion of people once a week. With the availability of better and less-expensive RAT kits, this can become a norm until WHO formally declares the end of the pandemic,” he added.

Of the top 10 States and UTs with the highest number of cumulative cases, while West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been predominantly conducting RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction ) tests, Kerala has been conducting a higher share of Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT).

At an all-India level, nearly 50 per cent of the daily tests conducted are RT-PCR.

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Test positivity increases

While the test positivity ratio has declined sharply since May 6, when the reading was 22.7 per cent, it is once again beginning to increase, indicating that testing needs to be ramped up.

Among the top 10 States and UTs with the highest number of cumulative infections, Kerala recorded the highest daily test positivity rate of 10.4 per cent on July 9, followed by Maharashtra at 4.2 per cent and Andhra Pradesh at 3 per cent.

The test positivity rate can be calculated as the ((number of confirmed cases/number of tests conducted)*100). The all-India test positivity rate stood at 2.1 per cent on Friday.

Himanshu Sikka, Lead - Health, Nutrition and WASH, IPE Global, said that it is also key to up the genome sequencing percentage to ensure new variants and trends of their emergence are identified in a timely manner and acted upon.

“We also need to initiate community level and random testing in hot spots like tourist destinations where one is seeing an upsurge in uncontrolled movement,” Sikka noted.

Published on July 11, 2021
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