Covid-19: Are Delhi’s infection levels at 7% or 22%?

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Published: May 21, 2020 12:45:00 AM

On May 6, for instance, the High Court was informed that 1,373 tests were done but the state’s Medical Bulletin puts the number at 4,082.

Based on the medical bulletin, Delhi had 472 fresh infections on May 14 out of total of 6,391 fresh tests; in the High Court, however, the Delhi government said 1,807 tests were conducted on May 14.Based on the medical bulletin, Delhi had 472 fresh infections on May 14 out of total of 6,391 fresh tests; in the High Court, however, the Delhi government said 1,807 tests were conducted on May 14.

Going by the figures of Covid-19 infections that the Delhi government reports in its medical bulletin, the capital’s infection levels – proportion of those testing positive to the total tests done daily – were around 8.2% at the end of the third lockdown (L3). While that is much lower than Maharashtra’s 21.4 – 61% of Maharashtra’s infections are from Mumbai – another set of figures being reported by the Delhi government, to the Delhi high court, suggest the infection is around 22%. Which is correct?

Based on the medical bulletin, Delhi had 472 fresh infections on May 14 out of total of 6,391 fresh tests; in the High Court, however, the Delhi government said 1,807 tests were conducted on May 14. The discrepancy in the number of tests that Delhi conducts is at the heart of the controversy. On May 6, for instance, the High Court was informed that 1,373 tests were done but the state’s Medical Bulletin puts the number at 4,082. On May 14, the High Court was told that 1,807 tests were conducted while the Medical Bulletin puts it at 6,391. There are similar discrepancies for all days in between.

Till May 15, the Delhi government reported six sets of data to the High Court; one of these was ‘fresh samples taken’ and another ‘reports received’. The latter referred to the number of tests done during the day. On May 6, for instance, the High Court report shows 6,153 pending samples; on May 7, a total of 1,608 fresh samples were taken and 3,499 reports were received. Add the pending samples on May 6 to the fresh ones on May 7 and deduct the reports received on May 7, and you get 4,262 which the report to the High Court showed was the number of pending samples on May 7. The same exercise can be done for other days and it makes it clear the number of tests done was the same as ‘reports received’.

On May 16, however, the Delhi government changed its method of reporting data to the Delhi high court and added the number of samples taken during a day to the number of reports received and clubbed them under the heading “Number of samples tested during the day (both public & private labs)”. Even this, however, doesn’t fix the problem since, on May 16, the High Court data talks of 3,381 tests while the medical bulletin talks of 5,656 tests.

Add to this, the controversy over whether the city is reporting the number of Covid-19 deaths, and it is clear the system of reporting needs a drastic overhaul.

Mails sent to the offices of Delhi health minister, and secretary did not elicit any response till the time of publishing.

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