Ramp up testing to combat COVID-19 efficiently
Data is an invaluable treasure, more so at a time when the world is combating its worst scourge of the modern age. But India doesn’t yet seem to have realised the importance even as it sits on the verge of a possible explosion of coronavirus cases. The case graph has begun to take a steeper line and the country can no longer afford to take comfort in the fact that the numbers are vastly lower as compared to the US or Europe.
The low numbers are likely linked to drastically low levels of testing. India has till date tested just more than 50,000 samples, which for a 1.3 billion population, is not even a drop in the ocean. In contrast, the US has tested over 13 lakh samples and New York itself has done nearly 2.5 lakh tests. Both India and the US had reported their first case around the same time, during January- end.
Within India, Maharashtra and Kerala are the two states that have started to ramp up their testing level, albeit for the reason that both showed the initial spurt in cases and now account for a major chunk of patients Experts are calling for an urgent increase in the number of tests and the reason is twofold. More tests will not only give us a more accurate picture on the extent of penetration of the coronavirus in the country, they will also generate data for researchers, experts and health planners to study the behaviour of the virus and its manifestations in the Indian environment, and help us devise strategies to combat it accordingly.
Currently, the Maharashtra Medical Education and Drugs department report has revealed case positivity of around 3%. India’s case positivity rate is also around 3.4%, while in states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, it is over 8%. The numbers will naturally change as testing levels go up, but they will also throw up invaluable information for the development of region-specific strategies. Thus, testing should be ramped up with immediate effect so as to be able to have enough data on hand to formulate an efficient gateway to exit the lockdown, which is set to end in less than two weeks.