NEW DELHI: India needs to test at least one million people before any reasonable conclusion could be drawn about the extent of COVID-19 spread in the country and reduce the risk of an economic and social meltdown, a new study has suggested.
Research by scientists attached with ACALM (Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality) Study Unit, UK, has made the recommendation after studying the pattern in the top 50 countries with the most number of COVID-19 cases, in relation to the number of tests performed. In India, a little over one lakh tests have been conducted so far with many as repeat tests as COVID-19 patients need to be tested several times before they can be declared as discharged.
Dr Rahul Potluri, the founder of the study unit and big data researcher, said: “The crisis can be dealt with only if the government is armed with information that what percentage of the population is infected. We are suggesting ten lakh people in India to be tested.”
The study projected three models on how COVID-19 might pan out. One, according to each country’s current testing rate per case per death, the second, adjusted for the countries that have performed at least 1,00,000 tests and the third, adjusting for South Korea, which has largely managed to contain the number of cases and deaths.
“Different COVID-19 case and death rates have been reported globally and prediction models have been undertaken based on these figures. However, the basis for any case is a diagnostic test and you cannot have projected prediction models without a common denominator — which is the number of tests performed,” said Dr Potluri.
The projections for the number of deaths vary significantly according to each model but Dr Potluri said, “We found that countries with the highest testing rates have the lowest death rates. It is only by continued testing on a large scale that we will know if the increasing number of patients who are seriously unwell are the tip of the iceberg or not.”
According to Dr Potluri, rolling out large-scale testing would help understand the extent of the spread. This would not only help plan healthcare services, identify hotspots and step up isolation and quarantine measures but also enable protecting the vulnerable group while bringing immune people back to work.