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BMC Medical staff conducting Antigen test for COVID-19 in Jian health center Dadar, in Mumbai on Saturday. (ANI Photo)
BMC Medical staff conducting Antigen test for COVID-19 in Jian health center Dadar, in Mumbai on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

India needs more testing to control Covid pandemic: Health experts

Considering April, May and June, one had to actually struggle to get a test done, the healthcare expert said adding that there is no dearth of testing in bigger cities

Even as India on Monday crossed the milestone of 11 crore cumulative covid-19 tests, public health experts pointed out that India requires more testing to control the pandemic effectively as it appears to slow down.

“There is a clear trend of new Covid-19 infections declining in the country, with 45,321 cases reported in last 24 hours compared to the peak of 97,859 cases on September 16. However, the number of daily tests continue to grow at a lower rate. In the initial stages of the pandemic, there was an urgency to scale up tests and a sharp growth was seen in daily tests. But this growth is slowing now," said Himanshu Sikka, Lead-Nutrition, Health & WASH, IPE Global, an international development consulting firm in healthcare.

“Mathematically, this could be because now the base has increased to a certain level. Initially, 1,000 tests per day were conducted, which necessitated a 100 times growth rate; now the count has increased to one million tests per day, and so the growth rate required is not that much," he said. Sikka argued that one of the big reasons is that India got the initial impetus on testing and there was a lot of focus to ensure that tests are happening regularly; now that focus on increasing the testing infrastructure has, to some extent, reduced.

Considering April, May and June, one had to actually struggle to get a test done, Sikka said adding that there is no dearth of testing in bigger cities. “But the situation might be different in smaller towns, the testing infrastructure is not uniformly spread across the country. The smaller towns and districts still have limited testing infrastructure available and shortages are still there," said Sikka.

“These States which have bigger infrastructure have to focus on spreading the infrastructure to the district-level as well. Besides the pandemic, this will also help improve the district-level capacities and diagnostics for the long-term," he said.

The total number of coronavirus infections reached 82,40, 260 on Monday, the union health ministry said. In the country. At least 80% of the new cases are concentrated in ten States/UT. Kerala surged to first place with 7,025 new cases while Delhi and Maharashtra, both reported more than 5000 daily new cases.

Currently, the active cases comprise 6.83% of the total positive cases of the country. In a span of just two months, the percentage active cases have reduced more than 3 times. On 3rd September, the percentage active cases were 21.16%. With the toll touching 1,23,229, at least 496 deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours. 10 States and UTs account for 82% of fatalities in the past 24 hours. 22% of deaths reported yesterday are from Maharashtra with 113 deaths followed by West Bengal with 59 deaths.

“The pandemic looks like slowing down but the data sets from states may vary. Testing infrastructure may be scanty. In the country the proportion of rapid tests being done is increasing, and not all persons with symptoms but rapid test negative are being tested with RT-PCR. We are still not testing enough," Lalit Kant, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). “The number of tests per positive person is a sensitive indicator. The figure for India during last month hovers between 12 and 16. This is a small number. At the minimum this should be in 30s. This indicates that we are testing mainly high-risk groups," he said.

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