Faulty test strategy hits Odisha battle

Published: 12th May 2021 11:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2021 12:10 AM   |  A+A-

Passengers in queue coming out from Bhubaneswar Railway Station on Thursday | Biswanath Swain

As some of the Covid hotspot states of India begin to show signs of a plateau and even a decline, Odisha continues to throw up over 10,000 cases daily. After hitting a peak, the testing numbers drop in the state and so does the daily caseload. There is nothing natural about this as the test numbers fluctuate due to an erratic strategy. In the last 24 hours, the state carried out 49,191 tests and logged 10,982 cases with a test positivity rate (TPR) of 22%. The government has been claiming it would increase its testing numbers to 75,000 a day but little has been done to achieve it. Some of the Covid hotspot districts have been registering a TPR over 40% but a look at their RTPCR tests exposes the truth. Bargarh, contiguous to Chhattisgarh, reported 413 cases on Tuesday when its total testing number was just 1,316. Of this, the number of RT-PCR tests was barely 210. The plan is unfathomable if the administration really wants to understand the transmission pattern and break the chain. Cuttack, which reported a whopping 47% TPR, conducted just 1,847 tests, of which only 642 were RT-PCR.

Social media is abuzz with people venting out their ordeal in just getting a test done. Think of the agony of travelling 60-70 km in the hilly tribal districts for conducting a sick elderly family member’s test only to return disappointed as there are no kits available at the district hospital or the day’s sample collection exercise is over. But that is what is happening in the hinterland as the virus continues its rapid surge into rural pockets. Currently, 17 districts report a TPR of 20% or above.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday sanctioned Rs 20 crore for establishment of RTPCR testing centres in 16 districts, many of which have very poor health infrastructure. Putting together these labs would obviously take time. Had his administration been alert, this could have been initiated when things were looking up last year and people now would not be facing a lot of hardship just to get tested. It also would have given the state an upper hand in tracking the virus.


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