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India's COVID-19 testing ratio not low: ICMR refutes allegations of poor testing

The chief of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar, said for each positive case the country tests 24 people.

Published: 16th April 2020 07:37 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th April 2020 07:37 PM   |  A+A-

healthcare workers, coronavirus

For representational purposes (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Refuting allegations that India is not conducting enough COVID-19 tests, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday the testing ratio is not low and in a country with such a huge population "not all people belong to vulnerable groups".

Responding to a question about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleging that the scale of testing in India has been low so far at 199 per 10 lakh people, the chief of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar said for each positive case the country tests 24 people.

"In countries 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 USA tests 5.3 persons and the United Kingdom 3.4," he said during a daily press briefing on the country's COVID-19 situation.

"Taking their population base into consideration, it is difficult to comment about our testing rate. In India, we are conducting 24 tests out of which one comes out to be positive. Also, we have huge population and not all people belong to vulnerable groups. Hence, can't say our testing ratio is low," Dr Gangakhedkar said.

Adding to the remark, Lav Agarwal, the joint secretary in the health ministry, said data can be interpreted in many ways and the government's effort is aimed at ensuring not a single positive case is missed out.

"There is a defined criteria. Compared to other countries, we are testing 24 people out of each positive case. We have been able to contain the spread of the virus to some extent through advanced action measures. It is not the absolute number of testing which will be our defining criteria. What is important is to see what output is yielded in our containment measures linked with testing.

"We are also testing patients with severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and influenza like illness (ILI) even in places which have not reported any (coronavirus) positive case," Agarwal said.

Addressing a press conference via video link earlier in the day, Rahul Gandhi called for aggressive testing to defeat coronavirus and asserted that it should be used strategically.

Gandhi said the scale of testing in India has been low so far at 199 per 10 lakh people -- around 350 tests per district -- which he said is not enough to tell which way the virus is moving.

"If you have to fight the virus, you have to increase testing dramatically and your testing has to go from chasing the virus to moving ahead of it.

That means you have to move into random testing," he noted.

Dr Gangakhedkar, however, said 2,90,401 samples have been tested so far, of which 30,043 were tested on Wednesday itself.

Out of the tests carried out on Wednesday, 26,331 were done in laboratories under Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) network and 3,712 in private labs, he added.

Commenting on the testing capacity of ICMR network, Dr Gangakhedkar said, "Working in one shift, more than 42,400 samples can be tested each day. If we work in two shifts, we will be able to test more than 78,200 samples daily." 

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