Covid-19: Delhi accounts for 11% of India’s infections but just 6% of its daily tests

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Published: June 5, 2020 12:40 AM

There is some confusion over what Delhi’s ‘positivity’ rate is since there are two sets of data on the number of tests being conducted; one set is contained in the Delhi Medical Bulletin and the other in the data submitted to the Delhi High Court.

The notices sent out to private laboratories say they have not followed ICMR testing guidelines and have tested a large number of asymptomatic patients. The notices sent out to private laboratories say they have not followed ICMR testing guidelines and have tested a large number of asymptomatic patients.

While the Delhi government decides on what action it wants to take on the show cause notices it sent to several private laboratories for testing asymptomatic patients, it needs to keep in mind the need to ramp up testing rapidly.

One, while Delhi accounts for 10.7% of India’s infections, it accounts for just 5.6% of the country’s daily testing. Two, and more important, Delhi is getting very high levels of fresh infections for every round of tests it conducts; in which case, the capital will benefit from more tests being conducted.

There is some confusion over what Delhi’s ‘positivity’ rate is since there are two sets of data on the number of tests being conducted; one set is contained in the Delhi Medical Bulletin and the other in the data submitted to the Delhi High Court. Both sets of data report the same number of fresh infections every day. Based on the data in the bulletin (see graphic), Delhi gets around 20 new cases for every 100 new tests it carries out. Based on the data given to the High Court, it got 38% new cases on May 31. Whichever number is correct, the benefits from increased testing are undisputed.

The notices sent out to private laboratories say they have not followed ICMR testing guidelines and have tested a large number of asymptomatic patients. The guidelines make little sense if, as ICMR has said, in the past, that 70-80% of the infected are asymptomatic. Nor are they internally consistent. The guidelines say “asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact”. Since contact tracing is so poor, it is not clear how people are to know whether they came in contact between day 5 and 10; also, Delhi has traced just 8.9 contacts for every infected person and Maharashtra a mere 7.6 versus 44 in Tamil Nadu and 149 in Odisha, making it clear how levels of tracing differ across states.

Also, since infection levels are occurring even after the 14-day quarantine period recommended in most cases, is testing not to occur if a contact was made 11 days ago; and who certifies the day of the contact? Nor is it clear why a distinction is made between ‘direct’ and ‘high-risk’ contacts.

The Delhi government guidelines do not talk of ‘asymptomatic’ contacts but, instead, talk of ‘direct and high-risk contacts’ and qualify the ‘high-risk contact’ as being “diabetic, hypertension, cancer patient and senior citizen”. In this case, too, the testing is only to be done between day 5 and 10 of the contact.

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