COVID-19 | Tests in Karnataka cross 50 lakh
Experts say that while testing has increased, it is not enough to match velocity of the virus
Karnataka’s COVID-19 tests crossed the 50 lakh mark on Friday even as the test positivity rate (TPR) continued to remain above 10% in at least 15 districts.
From an average 80 tests a day in March, the State is now testing an average of over 80,000 samples a day. On Wednesday, the State tested an unprecedented 94,886 samples, taking the total number of tests to 49,01,083. This number further increased on Friday with 92,059 samples tested following which the total tests touched 50,89,730.
The State ramped up its testing from May onwards. From 2,310 tests in March, the State conducted nearly 16 lakh tests in August. This further went up to nearly 20 lakh tests in September. The tests per million went up from 44,099 on September 1 to 72,541 on September 30.
However, despite the high number of samples tested, experts say the State’s testing is yet to match the velocity of the virus. The State’s TPR on September 30 marginally increased to 12.3% from 11.8% on September 1.
According to epidemiologists, a high TPR indicates that testing is relatively limited to people with high suspicion of COVID-19 and may miss new chains of transmission in the community.
Giridhara R. Babu, member of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee, said increasing TPR indicates that the overall prevalence is on an upward trajectory. “It means the outbreak is expanding further and the State’s testing is not in pace with the spread,” he said. “It is not sufficient to simply increase the numbers. Whom we test and through which test (Rapid Antigen Test, RT-PCR) is as important. The need of the hour is to find people through syndromic approach (those with symptoms, comorbidities and elderly) and test them on priority. This will necessitate that all the RAT negative symptomatic persons will be tested using RT-PCR,” he said.
Shalini Rajneesh, IAS official in charge of testing, said the State’s approach is certainly not on increasing numbers but on focussed testing. “We are testing the symptomatic, ILI, SARI emergency cases, and primary contacts through RAT as they have the highest infection possibility. Other secondary contacts, COVID warriors and super spreaders are tested regularly through RT-PCR,” she said.
Mysore Sanjeev, convener of Project Jeevan Raksha, a public-private partnership which is analysing COVID-19 trends across the country, said in September that the incremental increase in number of testing is 19.8 lakh, a 65% jump over August. This is in line with mega States where the average increase of testing is around 65%. “However, the marginal increase in the TPR in September, indicates that in spite of best efforts of the State, the virus is spreading faster,” he said.
C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State COVID-19 task force, said there is need to further ramp up testing to not just prevent the spread of infection but ensure early intervention in sick patients. “We need to track patients at a moderately symptomatic stage for early admission and treatment. This is the key to reduce mortality,” he said.