‘Scaling up testing vital to fight COVID-19’

A worker checking a customer using a thermal scanner in a supermarket at Srirangam in Tiruchi on Sunday.

A worker checking a customer using a thermal scanner in a supermarket at Srirangam in Tiruchi on Sunday.  

Districts need to strengthen their strategies: experts


Though districts in the central region of the State have stepped up testing to prevent spread of COVID 19 pandemic, much more needs to be done, say experts, citing the data of test results released by the Directorate of Public Health and the Health and Family Welfare Department.

According to the data released on June 19, Tamil Nadu fares better in testing than the national average but individual districts need to further strengthen their testing strategies, the experts say.

The national average is 4,657 tests per million (tpm) while Tamil Nadu’s average is 8,666 tpm. Of the eight districts in the central region — Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Ariyalur, Perambalur, Karur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai, the data show that all districts test higher than the national average but most test below Tamil Nadu State average. Thanjavur is the only district in the central region to test higher than the State average – 9,125 tpm.

Karur is testing at a rate of 8008 tpm and Tiruvarur at 8,205. It is 6,788 tpm in Perambalur, 6,417 tpm in Ariyalur, 6,164 tpm in Tiruchi, 5,963 tpm in Nagapattinam, and 5,105 in Pudukottai.

Official sources in Tiruchi said that while cases are on a steady rise due to many travelling to the central region from Chennai, the spread of the virus is controlled since the travellers are being stopped and checked at check-posts, railway stations and airports.

“We are sending them directly to home or institutional quarantine and regularly monitoring their health. Similarly, those in containment zones are tested by health officials and monitored by a team set up by the local bodies,” a senior official said.

M. Geetharani, Deputy Director of Health Services, Perambalur, said that along with the testing guidelines provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu issued an instruction on June 25.

According to the instructions, patients suffering from any one of the symptoms – fever, cold, cough and sore throat will be tested.

“Until now, we were testing only if the patient showed at least three of the four symptoms. Now, we will be testing patients with the slightest symptoms,” she said.

The testing guidelines factor in symptomatic influenza-like illness (ILI), individuals with a history of international travel in the last 14 days, asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of confirmed, front line workers involved in containment and mitigation of COVlD-19, and Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses (SARI).

K. Kolandaswamy, former Director of Public Health, said that Tamil Nadu is the first State in the country to test more than one million samples for COVID-19. While the State is in the right direction, there are some improvements which could be taken in this “prolonged war” against COVID-19, he said.

Testing vulnerable groups such as cancer patients, those over the age of 60 and dialysis patients must be made compulsory, especially before hospitalisation. “This way, we will eliminate the risk of infecting other patients and will also be able to care for the patient better,” he said.

Dr. Kolandaswamy also said that while many districts are unofficially testing pregnant women, the state must include them in their strategy.

“These women are the perfect default sample as they come from many different geographical locations, economic situations. They would also not be allowed to step out during their last month of pregnancy. If they test positive, it means that the infection is present in her immediate contacts and containment measures can be taken in the area immediately,” he said.

Meanwhile, although testing centres are now present at all government medical college hospitals, the testing equipment must be upgraded. “Even district headquarters hospitals must have the best equipment,” he said. Testing methodology too could be upgraded to Multiplex testing, which could provide results within two hours.

However, Dr. Kolandaswamy was of the opinion that although testing strategies could be changed from time to time, the public must continue to wash their hands regularly, clean surfaces from time-to-time and ensure they wear facemasks whenever in contact with others. “They must also ensure that they maintain innate immunity but consuming healthy, nutritious food,” he said.

The people must also understand that if they test negative once for COVID-19, it is not a “permanent negative,” you could get infected tomorrow, Dr. Kolandaswamy warned.

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 2:44:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/scaling-up-testing-vital-to-fight-covid-19/article31939783.ece

Next Story