Aggressive COVID-19 testing suggested in Bengaluru, Hangal, and Sindgi
With total failure of all COVID-19 protocols in the past four days during the final journey of the late Kannada actor Puneeth Rajkumar, experts say there should be aggressive and increased testing of all symptomatic people in Bengaluru in the next fortnight.
Karnataka’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) had, on October 10, recommended revision of testing targets keeping in mind the Test Positivity Rate (TPR), seven-day average of effective Reproduction Number (Rt No.), and the ensuing fairs and festivals in October-November.
Recommending a total daily target of 1.1 lakh till November, the TAC had suggested that 50,000 tests should be conducted daily in Bengaluru and 60,000 in the rest of Karnataka. Half of the 60,000 should be in the border districts, the TAC had said. However, the daily testing targets have not been met on all days.
Now, with huge crowds turning up to pay their respects to the late actor, experts say there is fear of a fresh outbreak of COVID-19. “The next fortnight is crucial as it was difficult to ensure COVID-19 protocols were followed in the past four days in Bengaluru. It was beyond anyone’s control. There should be aggressive testing of all symptomatic people in the city for at least two weeks,” TAC chairman M.K. Sudarshan told The Hindu on Monday.
“At least 50,000 tests should be conducted daily in the city compulsorily. Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) can be done for all symptomatic people and those who test negative should be followed up with RT-PCR test as per ICMR protocols. Testing can also be done through pooled samples in a 1:5 ratio,” Dr. Sudarshan said.
He said testing should also be ramped up in the two constituencies — Hangal and Sindgi — where bypolls were held. “There, testing should be increased by 20%. All symptomatic people, not just those who visit a healthcare facility but also those who buy medicines from pharmacies over the counter, should be tested.”
“The issue was discussed at last week’s TAC meeting. All pharmacies should keep a record of the phone numbers of those who buy medicines for fever, cough and cold, and report to the health authorities. Such people should be contacted and tested,” Dr. Sudarshan said.
C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 task force, who is also part of the TAC, said random samples should be drawn from those in closed markets, shopkeepers, caterers, restaurant staff, and home delivery and housekeeping personnel. Street vendors and people in railway stations and bus stands should also be randomly tested. This is mainly because people from all walks of life attended the funeral, he said.
“Testing is the only way we can keep our Test Positivity Rate under check. We should continue tracing, tracking and testing a minimum of 1:20 contacts as per the guidelines. No one with symptoms of ILI, SARI and other respiratory diseases should be left out now,” he said.