Since the COVID-19 outbreak in India, many news websites have pointed out that India just isn’t doing enough tests of the disease. There have been many counter and pro arguments on this issue. In this article we examine this question and India’s approach towards the pandemic.
“We have a simple message to all countries – test, test, test,” World Health Organisation (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva when asked about solutions for the pandemic. “All countries should be able to test all suspected cases, they cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded,” he said.
On this Balram Bhargava, director of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said, “It is reassuring that at the moment there is no evidence of community outbreak.” He believes Mr Ghebreyesus’s advice is “premature” for India, and it would only “create more fear, more paranoia and more hype”.
As government response and public concern over Covid-19 ratchet up, the medical community is looking at two aspects. First, how much testing is optimal — should we expand it beyond at-risk populations to flatten the disease curve as South Korea has done, or does mass testing burden the healthcare system? Second, where do India and other countries stand in developing a vaccine?
However, among all this speculation, India is scaling up testing. Officials say existing labs are able to provide results in six hours and each lab has the capacity to test 90 samples a day which can be doubled. Fifty more state labs are expected to begin testing samples by the end of the week, bringing the total number of testing facilities to 122. Authorities claim that together, the labs will be able to test 8,000 samples a day – a significant scaling up. In addition, the government is planning to allow around 50 private labs to start testing, but they will take up to 10 days to procure kits.
Many experts have also pointed out that India, right now is not reporting the cases as it is taking time to buckle up its medical and health infrastructure for the pandemic. However, this is a speculation that some have fuelled while other have refuted.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India had performed 25,144 tests on 24,254 individuals as of 8pm on March 25. Among these, a total of 581 individuals had been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases.
The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) tested random people to check for community transmission and concluded that it has found no positive case of coronavirus in 500 randomly collected samples of respiratory disease patients in ICUs. That sort of thing is hardly a justification to not test people with symptoms.
ICMR’S TESTING STRATEGY
- Body had earlier said there is no community transmission
- Disease primarily in individuals with travel history to affected countries or via close contact with positive cases.
- Everyone needn’t be tested, it had said earlier
- However, ICMR had conducted random tests on people with flu-like symptoms.
SO WHOM TO TEST?
- Individuals in close contact with laboratory-confirmed cases
- History of travel to affected countries in previous 14 days
- Home quarantine for 14 days
- Symptom watch for 14 day
- If no, no testing
- If yes, laboratory test
The question however still remains. Is Indian doing enough tests? The answer for this question will only unfold in the coming weeks as we see over 1.2 billion Indians fight the most transmissible disease in human history.
Feature Image Credits: World Economic Forum
Aniket Singh Chauhan