13 states told increase Covid-19 testing

MoHFW strikes note of caution amid resurgence in other countries despite large vaccinations

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Geetanjali Minhas | November 24, 2021 | Mumbai


#Covid-19   #pandemic   #testing   #health ministry   #MoHFW   #healthcare  
(File photo: GN)
(File photo: GN)

In view of several countries reporting surges in Covid-19 cases and many developed nations facing fourth and fifth waves despite high numbers of vaccinations, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has written to the states of Nagaland, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Kerala, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and the union territory of Ladakh to ramp up testing.

Noting that there has been a significant decline in new cases with average 10,195 daily cases reported in the week ending November 22, the MoHFW in its letter also says that there has been a decline in weekly testing rates.

Imploring states that in the absence of sustained levels of sufficient testing it is very difficult to determine the true level of infection spread in geography and to preserve the gains made so far, the health ministry says, “With a majority of countries seeing multiple surges in Covid cases in recent times and a few developed countries facing even fourth and fifth waves despite high levels of Covid vaccination there is a need for continued vigil given the unpredictable and contagious nature of the disease. Hence all efforts must be implemented to preserve the gains made so far and to prevent deterioration of Covid-19 scenario across the country.”

For example, in the letter to the principal secretary of Nagaland’s health and family welfare department, union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan says, “Nagaland has reported 342 average daily tests as on week ending 22nd November. This is in stark contrast to a high of 1,250 average daily tests conducted in the week of 23rd- 29th August. It is also worrying to note that the state has recorded a positivity of 1.5% in the week ending 22nd November having stagnated over the past 4 weeks with an abysmally low share of RT-PCR tests, i.e., 8.2%.

“Further, worrying trends with regards to tests, tests per million, positivity rate and higher dependence on rapid antigen tests have been observed in various districts of the State. Positivity in districts like Mokukchong and Peren has been above 2.5% with RT-PCR share falling below a decent proportion of the total tests,” says the letter.
 
The letter addressed to the additional chief secretary of Maharashtra’s health and family welfare department says, “Maharashtra has reported 97,502 average daily tests as on week ending 22nd November. This is in stark contrast to a high of 2,68,501 average daily tests conducted in the week of 17th to 23rd May.

“Worrying trends with regards to tests and average TPM have been observed in various districts of the state. The districts of Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Dhule, Gondia, Hingoli, Nandurbar, Washim, and Yavatmal are conducting average tests per million per day below the WHO recommended number of 140 for the week ending 22nd November, which is a cause of concern,” it says.  

With the recent increase in traveling and events like marriages, festive celebrations, vacations having either recently concluded or underway, the ministry has directed the states to maintain high testing.

“A decrease in testing would undermine the actual infection spread within the community. Also, with the onset of winter and increased pollution in some states, prevalence of ILI/SARI and respiratory distress symptoms should be closely monitored with tests conducted regularly for timely monitoring and clustering of cases for early hotspot identification,” writes Bhushan, assuring all help to states to maintain the momentum and progress made so far.

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