Covid-19 positivity rate at government labs is falling

Private labs are recording a higher figure, which means mostly symptomatic people are opting for tests

With all eyes on the total positivity rate (number of people testing positive for every 100 persons), it’s being noticed that private labs and hospitals are reporting a higher total positivity rate (TPR) than government-owned centres, for those getting tested for covid-19. This is mostly because people with symptoms usually turn up at private centres for testing. Overall, the positivity rate, a key indicator of the on-the-ground spread of coronavirus, has dropped to a two-month low, a sign that the lockdown has been effective.

Between May 26 and June 1st, the positivity rate has dropped to 8.86 per cent. In the week of May 5 to May 11, it was 38.27 per cent. Between April 7 to 13, it was 8.12 per cent.

Officials said the positivity rate in private labs and hospitals was about 40 per cent in May. It has reduced to 20 in June in Bengaluru. During the same period, the government-owned centres reported a positivity rate of 22 per cent, which has now come down to 7 per cent.

Explaining the reason for the difference, a Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike official said, “The difference is primarily because we conduct tests on primary contacts of covid-19 patients, who are likely to turn negative. People with symptoms usually go to the private labs hence their positivity rate is higher,” a senior official said.

It’s learnt that some private hospitals have been choosy when it comes to testing people for covid-19. Some do not entertain testing of people who want a negative certificate for travelling from one place to the other. In many primary healthcare centres, a prescription from the doctor is a must to get themselves tested for covid-19.



Noted epidemiologist Dr Giridhara Babu was of the view that the government should not be happy with the low positivity rate but conduct an active search in the community. “The lower positivity rate in government hospitals may be because they don’t follow the syndromic approach to testing. Government health centres can do active search in the community (like in Chennai) instead of testing randomly, to have higher chances of detecting persons with infection,” he said.

An analysis of the last ten days shows that the positivity trend in RR Nagar stands the highest at 20 per cent. The West zone has been reporting the lowest positivity rate of 7.2 per cent, followed by the South at 8.1 per cent and East zone at 10.7 per cent. The rates in the remaining zones were Yelahanka (13.4 per cent), Mahadevapura (13.6 per cent), Dasarahalli (13.8 per cent) and Bommanahalli (15 per cent).

Meanwhile, BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta said that test reports of 80 per cent of the samples come the next day. “In about 20 per cent of the cases, the reports come in two days,” he said, dismissing reports that some patients have got the report by a delay of more than three days.

Statistics show that the total positivity rate in Bengaluru on May 3 was 55 per cent, the highest for any given city in the country. Since the week between May 12 to 18, the TPR has been dropping, according to weekly average figures. Undoubtedly, this TPR is quite high as Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar had recently said that the government aimed to decrease it to at least 5 per cent.

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Sagar Biswas

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