Coronavirus: Is India running too few coronavirus tests?

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Coronavirus: Is India running too few coronavirus tests?

For the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 8,600 people and infected more than 207,000 in at least 159 countries.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has emphasized the importance of test to the world, “We have a simple message to all countries – test, test, test! All countries should be able to test all suspected cases, they cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded!”

India has activated 67 laboratories for conducting the first test, and 51 of those are equipped to conduct confirmatory tests, which is not even one lab per district. India has 732 districts.

At present, cases are being reported from 13 States and Union Territories. In a country with a population of 1.3 billion, till now, only 6,500 throat swab samples from 5,900 individuals have been sent to these labs; one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

With 182 reported infections and four deaths so far, Is the world’s second-most populous country testing enough? The reason: the country has limited testing. So, only people who have been in touch with an infected person or those who have travelled to high-risk countries, or health workers managing patients with severe respiratory disease and developing Covid-19 symptoms are eligible for testing.

Coronavirus test

Yet, coronavirus is one of the deadliest transmissible viruses in recent history. Every day lost in effective response means the looming danger of a surge in infections. India spends a paltry 3.7% of its GDP on health care, and that may begin to bite if there’s a full-blown outbreak. Partial lockdowns in many cities – shutting schools, colleges, businesses and suspending some rail transport – proves that the government fears that community transmission of the virus might have begun.

Bracing for the inevitable, 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. (Testing at state-run labs is free, and it is unclear whether the private labs will charge.)

Two rapid testing labs, capable of doing 400 tests a day, are expected to be operational by the end of the week. India has also placed orders for a million test kits, and will be possibly asking the WHO for a million more.

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