Coronavirus: Only 1 in every 24 samples +ve, govt says

NEW DELHI: Only one in every 24 samples tested for
Covid-19 in India is positive, the government and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said comparing it with the “positivity ratio” of various other countries like Japan, Italy, the US and UK which show a less number of tests for each confirmed case.

“In a country like Japan, one out of 11.7 tests turns out to be positive, which is among the highest in the world. Italy tests 6.7 persons for one positive test while the US tests 5.3 persons and UK 3.4,” ICMR chief epidemiologist Dr R R Gangakhedkar said. Reiterating that India’s testing ratio is not low as 23 out of 24 tests are resulting in a negative, he said, “We have a huge population and not all people belong to vulnerable groups. Hence, can’t say our testing ratio is low.”

The figures offered by the health ministry and ICMR also seemed a response to Congress functionary Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on Thursday that India was testing too fewer persons and might be under-reporting cases. He echoed the concerns of some experts who have questioned the targeted testing strategy using the confirmatory RT-PCR. The government on the other hand said the strategy has evolved and testing has expanded with a rise in Covid-19 cases.

At present, the testing strategy covers all symptomatic cases as well as hospitalised cases of severe acute respiratory illness. Besides, the government is also using rapid antibody tests for surveillance in hotspots and even in green zones that have not reported any cases.

“Our effort is not to miss out on any positive case,” health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said, adding that the testing strategy was based on scientific advice and has been working so far. Government experts have said that testing should not be spread out too thinly but rather pick samples across vulnerable sections along with surveillance and tracking and focus on hotspots.

Countering criticism that less number of positive cases reported by India is because inadequate testing is resulting in many cases being missed or not reported, Agarwal said the number only indicates that the advanced action taken by the government has helped to contain the outbreak to some extent.

“It is not about the absolute number of testing, but about how our containment measures together with testing, is giving us output. We want to ensure that everyone is tested, as per properly laid down testing criteria,” Agarwal said.

According to health ministry, 325 districts in India have not reported any Covid-19 case so far.

More on Covid-19

Besides, the implementation of containment strategies in some districts which had earlier reported Covid-19 cases, have yielded positive results. One of such place is Puducherry’s Mahe district where no case of the infection has been reported in the last 28 days. There are 27 other districts where no positive case has been reported in a fortnight, Agarwal said.

On Wednesday, the government divided all of 732 districts across the country in three colour zones – red, white and green – depending on their rate of growth of Covid-19 positive cases.

While 170 districts were identified as Covid-19 hotspots or ‘red zone’ areas, whereas 207 districts – where the rate of doubling is currently low but which can be potential hotspots – have been classified as ‘non-hotspots’ or white zones. Apart from these, there are green zone districts with no new confirmed case in last 28 days. The government said the number of districts in zones will change as the situation evolves.

On Thursday, the health ministry reported a total of 12,759 confirmed cases so far, while the death toll reached 420. As many as 941 fresh cases and 37 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

“If our case, fatality rate is 3.3 per cent and the number of people who have recovered so far is around 12 per cent,” Agarwal said.

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