BENGALURU: Despite repeated warnings from members of the Covid Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) not to reduce testing, the Department of Health and Family Welfare has consistently reduced the number of tests over the last three weeks. As per the health bulletin data, testing has fallen from 1.46 lakh RTPCR tests on May 8 to 1.04 lakh tests on Tuesday.“It is not a good trend. In the last two days, testing has come down but the positivity rate remains high. This shows that the virus is spreading faster,” said Dr C N Manjunath, nodal officer for Covid testing and head of Covid expert committee.
Dr Giridhara R Babu, epidemiologist and a TAC member, said, “In Bengaluru alone, tests have been reduced from one lakh to about 40,000 per day. We will miss asymptomatic carriers and even those with symptoms.”While the state can test about 1.3 to 1.5 lakh people, health department sources said that shortage of RAT test kits, testing swabs and VTMs are some of the reasons for reduced testing. Dr Manjunath said, “There has been a shortage of kits in the country, but in Karnataka we have about 8 lakh VTMs in stock and another 50 lakh has been ordered. The lockdown and people not coming out for testing could be the reason for the decline. We are not presently testing the secondary contacts which could be the other reason.”
On Tuesday, Union Health Ministry officials explained that any person who has tested positive through RAT should not get an RTPCR done and strictly, recovered individuals should not be tested.Arokiaswamy Velumani, MD of Thyrocare Technologies, said, “Why ICMR called off testing for inter-state domestic travel and nonessential travelers? It is unfair for a person travelling by flight to sit for a few hours next to an asymptomatic Covid patient.”Diagnostic labs see this as an effort to bring down the case numbers in terms of statistics. A renowned diagnostic official said, “In this second wave, they just want to show that the numbers are dropping.”
Experts are also angry with the State Government for cancelling RTPCR tests for those entering from other states. They said the new variant spread mainly due to lax checking at the borders and relaxing of RTPCR testing. “We had warned about B.1.617 strain entering Karnataka through Maharashtra and Kerala in February. Now the second wave is burdening healthcare. If we don’t test, we may be overwhelmed again.” said a senior doctor.