Ahmedabad, June 7

India’s Covid-19 cases are on the rise and the weekly test positivity ratio (TPR) — a key parameter to assess the spread of the infection — is inching close to a level where public health experts start feeling uneasy. But there is no pressing the panic button as yet.

India added 3,714 new cases on June 7 after conducting 3 lakh tests over 24 hours. The daily test positivity rate — positive cases per 100 tests — stood at 1.21 per cent, while the weekly TPR inched close to 1 per cent. In the past fortnight, the TPR has doubled, but the number of daily tests has reduced sharply from 4.51 lakh on May 20.

The rise in India’s overall cases and average TPR can be attributed to the sharp rise in new cases in states such as Kerala with TPR above 7 per cent, Maharashtra at 6.5 per cent, and Delhi and Karnataka at 1.5-2 per cent.

Experts feel that the testing is done under the new guidelines of targeted testing, which ought to identify more positive cases. Epidemiologists don’t immediately see a need to panic. But they caution about some public health risk with steady surge in cases and expect the governments to remind people of covid appropriate behaviour.

“This alarming increase in new cases is something that authorities should be mindful of. We don’t know whether or not this TPR is a true reflection of the infection circulating in the community. It is due to those who are subjecting themselves to testing. May be out of requirements such as international travel or due to persistent common cold symptoms. This means the coronavirus is circulating more than what we are expecting,” said Dr DK Mangal, advisor to Dr SD Gupta School of Public Health, Jaipur.

Why is it a worry?

The first concern, experts believe, is that not enough tests are being conducted across States. Secondly, the perception that the Omicron variant is mild and causes least hospitalisation or deaths has made people complacent. There is slack adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour. Authorities are also worried about the negligence towards vaccination — whether booster or first dose.

On May 20, the Union Health Ministry had flagged the “considerably slow pace of Covid-19 vaccination across States and UTs” and urged them to “significantly expedite the pace towards full vaccination coverage”.

Dr Mangal said, “People have discounted the Omicron variant as milder. We don’t have a complete profile of the virus yet. So we have to be watchful of new variants and ramp up vaccinations of vulnerable groups such as children.”

What is to be done?

The medical fraternity looks for clues in the behaviour of the virus, for which they seek the data of those testing positive, including their age, vaccination status, Covid history, and so on. On the other hand, while experts push for increased vaccinations, they also suggest bringing back public health measures to ensure “we don’t pay a heavy price for the laxity we see now,” Dr Mangal said.

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