COVID-19 : Is Karnataka testing enough people?

BBMP marshals stop cars to book those who don’t wear masks while driving, on Mysuru Road-Outer Ring Road junction, on Friday.   | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

Although Karnataka has been maintaining a test positivity rate (TPR) of below 1% for the past two months, the number of daily tests have reduced to below 70,000. While health officials said that a daily target of 75,000 tests has been fixed and that district officials have been told to ramp up testing, the number of tests have hovered around 60,000 per day in the last one month. The number of tests rose to 76,799 on Friday after a long time.

In fact, the number of tests started falling after the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination on January 16. From over one lakh a day, the number hovered around 90,000 till January-end. This further reduced to 50,000 in the first week of February when the State, based on recommendations of the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), fixed a target of 75,000 tests per day. The numbers have slightly gone up in the last one week, hovering around 65,000.

State Health Commissioner K.V. Trilok Chandra told The Hindu that although the indicative daily target of 75,000 is not being met, the State was testing far more than the recommended 10 contacts for every positive case detected. “For a case load of around 500, we are testing nearly 65,000 people, which is a comfortable testing rate as of now,” he said.

Stating that the focus now is on targeted testing, the Commissioner said, “We have issued an advisory asking officials to do more random testing in places where there are large crowds. Besides, all contacts of positive patients, ILI and SARI cases will be mandatorily tested.” He said testing will be ramped up further based on the emerging scenario.

However, sources said the swab collectors are finding it hard to meet the target, mainly because people are hesitant. While the focus at health facilities has shifted towards vaccination, the number of people eligible has also decreased, sources said.

Public resistance

C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 task force, said it is difficult to find primary and secondary contacts of positive patients besides those with ILI/SARI symptoms and other eligible persons to be tested now.

“With most being asymptomatic, they resist testing. Also, with the number of cases coming down, there is complacency. But, we cannot afford to stop following COVID-19 precautions now when the outbreak of a second wave is not far away,” he said.

“There should be strict enforcement of rules in weddings, social, political and religious gatherings to avoid another surge. People attending these events can be silent super-spreaders (as most are asymptomatic). Mask culture, which is gradually weaning away, should become a part of our life now,” Dr. Manjunath said adding that those coming from high-risk States should volunteer to get tested.

Referring to the recent massive protest by private school managements and teachers, Dr. Manjunath said all teachers should now be tested.

‘Do not lower guard’

V. Ravi, TAC member and former senior professor and head of neurovirology at NIMHANS, said as of the now the State’s testing rate is comfortable when compared with the number of new cases reported daily. “What is important now is to track down all symptomatic cases, and make sure all contacts are traced and tested,” Dr. Ravi added.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 2:51:01 PM |

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