Coronavirus: Is India's test and tracing strategy working?

By Shruti Menon
BBC Reality Check

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionA quicker however much less dependable technique of testing has gained floor in lots of states

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has referred to as on the nation’s worst-affected states to present prime precedence to testing and speak to tracing to fight coronavirus.

Daily circumstances in India have been falling since mid-September, however there’s concern that different testing methods could also be hindering the battle towards the illness.

What sort of testing is India doing?

India had been utilizing the what’s often known as a PCR check – considered the gold normal of testing – very extensively.

But at present, solely 60% of all checks use this technique, and plenty of Indian states – who’re in control of their very own well being insurance policies – have switched to fast antigen testing (RAT), a quicker however much less dependable technique.

  • How does mass testing work?

RAT checks are identified to overlook as much as 50% of circumstances as a result of false negatives (the place contaminated persons are not detected), though some consultants imagine they’re nonetheless helpful in areas which have turn out to be virus hotspots.

picture copyrightGetty Images

“The ability to detect cases depends on a relative mix of the less sensitive RAT test and the gold standard PCR test,” says Prof Gautam Menon, an infectious illness professional from Ashoka University in Haryana.

India is not alone in utilizing these checks, and a few European international locations grappling with additional waves of an infection have additionally resorted to fast testing.

Is testing constant throughout the nation?

Maharashtra is the worst-affected state in India, with 17% of all circumstances.

In phrases of complete coronavirus circumstances, it is adopted by states with considerably smaller populations resembling Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

But Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – two different states with giant populations – look like doing a lot better.

They have decrease proportions of confirmed circumstances at 2.9% and 1.6%.

What the testing information reveals is that in each Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (and another states) lower than 50% of complete checks use the PCR technique – so circumstances are being missed.

In Maharashtra, almost 60% of checks have been PCR checks (though they’re more and more utilizing fast testing within the state capital, Mumbai.)

And Tamil Nadu state has relied completely on PCR testing, which suggests it’s prone to have a much more correct thought of the unfold of the virus.

Patchy testing ranges throughout states

There’s proof that states may not be testing sufficient in extremely populated areas the place infections are usually larger.

As of 30 November, 13% of Uttar Pradesh’s circumstances have been present in its capital, Lucknow, though fewer than 6% of complete checks within the state have been carried on the market.

picture copyrightGetty Images

Kanpur district has the second-highest variety of circumstances within the state, however just below 3% of complete checks have been carried out there.

District-level information in Bihar reveals an analogous pattern. One of probably the most populous areas, Patna, accounts for 18% of all reported circumstances but has carried out solely 3% of the whole checks within the state.

Other elements of the state have carried out comparatively excessive numbers of checks, however have fewer circumstances.

“If you do fewer tests in areas where cases are high and vice-versa [more tests where cases are low], you end up reporting less cases while meeting a specific high-testing target,” says Dr Rijo John, a public well being coverage analyst in Kerala.

picture copyrightGetty Images

He provides this could make the information on case numbers a bit meaningless.

Varying surveillance methods

India’s Covid-19 nationwide pointers say states ought to hint contacts of a minimum of 80% of optimistic circumstances inside 72 hours.

picture copyrightGetty Images
picture captionMany migrant employees left Delhi to return house through the nationwide lockdown

But India’s parliamentary committee on well being and household welfare has mentioned that “poor contact tracing and less testing could have been a factor for the exponential growth of Covid”.

It’s troublesome to get dependable info from each state about contact tracing.

Uttar Pradesh was just lately lauded by the WHO for “early and systemic tracking of high-risk contacts”.

By distinction, information for Karnataka reveals its numbers for major and secondary contact tracing have fallen since September.

Telangana state has information for the proportion of checks carried out on the first and secondary contacts of those that have contracted Covid-19.

This has come down a bit since September together with total testing numbers.

In Kerala, the information reveals 95% of all circumstances since 4 May have been traced again to the first and secondary contacts of contaminated individuals.

But none of those datasets reveals if 80% of contacts of somebody who was optimistic have been traced throughout the timeframe set out within the nationwide pointers.

And many states don’t make this information public.

Read extra from Reality Check

Related Topics