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Fewer Covid tests in Karnataka raise worries

Asymptomatic patients not being tested at PHCs; Experts warn 3rd wave could come sooner

Published: 20th May 2021 04:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th May 2021 04:42 AM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

Express News Service

BENGALURU: After a sharp spiral, the number of fresh Covid-19 cases in Karnataka seems to be coming down. But are the figures hiding something? Officials in the health department seem to be under pressure from the State Government to show a reduction in number of cases.While Karnataka tops the list of eight states contributing to the high number of active cases, sources in the Health Department have confirmed that officials in the districts have been strictly told to keep the numbers to a minimum and also not to test asymptomatic patients.

According to the sources, medical officers in the districts have been told not to collect samples from asymptomatic patients and, if collected, the district Deputy Commissioners have been directed to take disciplinary action against the officer in charge. “We have been told  not to collect samples even if there are requests from asymptomatic primary or secondary contacts,” said an officer on condition of anonymity.
The officials have also apparently been told to compulsorily display a board stating that “Covid test is being done only for symptomatic patients’’.

Labs in some of the districts have also been told not to collect samples from asymptomatic patients, the source said. The targets set by the department for the districts, which used to be high during the previous wave and even till April, has now been scaled down to 200 at district hospitals, 75 at taluk hospitals, 25 at CHCs and only 10 at PHCs. Frontline doctors at PHC told TNIE that though there is no official communication on reducing tests, but they have been told to test only symptomatic patients, primary and secondary contacts. “There is less pressure now to meet targets for testing,” said a doctor from a PHC at Chikkaballapur. “As we have to do more quality testing, the number has come down from 250-300 to 150-200 per day,” said another doctor at a PHC in Bengaluru.

However, experts continue to warn that Karnataka may be inviting a third wave sooner with reduction in the number of tests. Data from Health Department shows that the state has reduced tests from 1.9 lakh a month ago to only about 93,000 for two consecutive days on Monday and Tuesday. In April, about 1.72 lakh tests were being conducted, the highest being 1.9 lakh in a day.

Dr Giridhara R Babu, member of Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) warned there have been several evidences that the number of asymptomatic patients testing positive have been high in the earlier wave and this wave too. One needs to be careful about not testing this population, he said.  Dr C N Manjunath, another TAC member and nodal officer for testing, suggested door-to-door survey and extensive use of Rapid Antigen Test could be done to detect infections early. However, Health Commissioner Dr Thrilok Chandra said, “We have not told to stop testing asymptomatic patients. We have made it mandatory to test even the primary contacts. Also, if you look at our testing numbers, nearly 50-60% of them are asymptomatic. This is not true.”



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