The positivity rate leapfrogging to 14.35% in April from 2.31% in March is undeniable proof of the extent of community transmission in Bengaluru.
In an effort to better utilise existing resources, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has decided to stop random testing for COVID-19, a tool to help identify community transmission. Instead, it will focus on testing people with symptoms, those with Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), and primary and secondary contacts.
BBMP Special Commissioner (Health) P. Rajendra Cholan said the civic body will focus on qualitative testing. “Earlier, we would test people in railway stations and bus stands. But now that community spread has been confirmed, we decided to stop random testing,” he said.
The civic body’s static teams and 687 mobile teams have been directed to accord priority to testing those with symptoms, ILI/SARI and primary and secondary contacts of those who have already tested positive, even if they are asymptomatic. The mobile teams have been directed to focus on testing of contacts.
More Rapid Antigen Tests
The BBMP is also increasing the percentage of Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) from the current 5% to around 20%. “This will help us identify cases quicker, which will help with immediate triaging and hospitalisation,” Mr. Cholan added.
Dr. Giridhar R. Babu, epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Bengaluru and member of the Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19, said that when a person has symptoms, the sensitivity of RAT is high, up to 50% in many cases. “After the first round of the sero survey, we recommended that in the presence of symptoms, the RAT may be performed. If the RAT is negative, then RT-PCR has to be conducted,” he said and added that given the high positivity rate, many laboratories are burdened and not able to give results on time.
“Conducting RAT on those with symptoms and immediately isolating those who test positive will help. The number of RAT can be increased further, as the test results are available in less than 30 minutes, which will also help reduce load on labs,” he added.
This will give a boost to the number of tests conducted every day, which has seen a drop since April 25, even while positive cases are on the rise. Data from the war room from April 17 to May 1 show that the number of tests were above one lakh a day only on six days; above 95,000 only once, above 80,000 twice. On four days, it was a little over 60,000.