The number of daily Covid-19 tests carried out in Kerala has come down by nearly one-third over the last two weeks and during the same period, the test positivity rate (TPR) went up by similar percentage. However, authorities argued that the drop in tests are mainly because of the Onam festival season.

“The State achieved a 7-day average of 1.68 lakh tests per day on August 2 and in the last one week, this 7-day average has dropped to 1.1 lakh — that is, nearly 35 per cent decline in testing. During the same period, the TPR in the State went up to 16 per cent from 12 per cent earlier,” said Rijo M John, a Kochi-based health economist, who has been tracking the Covid-19 pandemic since the beginning.

“If Kerala were to conduct as many as 2 lakh tests, as it has done some days, the number of daily cases reported in the State could go up to as high as over 30,000,” John said adding that testing less is not a way to flatten the curve.

“So, the 14 per cent decline in 7-day average daily cases in the last two weeks is not genuine. Whether it is deliberate or not is not for me to say,” said John who is also a guest faculty at the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode.

Cases on Sunday

Kerala, which accounts for nearly half of about 3.34 lakh total active cases in the country, reported around 10,000 Covid-19 cases on Sunday.

A senior community medicine specialist from Thiruvananthapuram Medical College admitted that the TPR was high because testing is low. However, it is also because of more targeted testing, he said.

“During the lockdown, most Panchayats in the State were resorting to artificially increasing the number of tests in order to keep their TPR down. They do not need to do that now because TPR is used only for deciding micro-containment zones. This may have resulted in the reduction in the number of tests,” he said.

He opines that increasing the number of tests for the sake of testing does not add any value and that he believes 1 lakh tests per day is a good number for the State if there is a more targeted testing to pick up infections. “The TPR is not increasing because there is a more rational use of tests rather than that there are fewer number of tests,” he said.

At the same time, he admitted the cases are expected to go up in the coming days because of Onam festival which just concluded.

Tests to pick-up

Meanwhile, a senior government official said the number of tests will pick up in the next few days and will be back at the higher levels soon. Health Minister Veena George has convened an emergency meeting to discuss measures need to be taken if the cases go up further in the coming days. The government has already chalked-out a plan to keep a stock of 870 tonnes of medical oxygen as an emergency step.