New Delhi: On 16 April, Rahul Gandhi, in a virtual press conference criticized the government for not increasing the number of COVID-19 tests and dubbed the lockdown as a ‘pause button’. Gandhi wanted mass testing instead of targeted testing as is currently done in India. However, from data, it is amply clear that the testing method of our country is well designed and effective for a country of 1.5 billion people.
India’s most populated state, Uttar Pradesh, itself has a population of 20 crore. Now, imagine the impracticability of conducting COVID-19 test on the masses across the country. It is a gigantic task not possible for a country like ours. That is why the Central government developed a testing protocol that is suited for our needs.
According to the government’s testing protocol, tests are conducted only on those who show symptoms of the disease, people from abroad, those who were in contact with them, secondary contacts and those who might have come in some contact with them.
Strategy for COVID19 testing in India (Version 4, dated 09/04/2020)
1. All symptomatic individuals who have undertaken international travel in the last 14 days
2. All symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases
3. All symptomatic health care workers
4. All patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (fever AND cough and/or shortness of breath)
5. Asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case should be tested once between day 5 and day 14 of coming in his/her contact
In hotspots/cluster and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centres, includes the following as well.
6. All symptomatic ILI (fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose)
a. Within 7 days of illness – rRT-PCR
b. After 7 days of illness – Antibody test (If negative, confirmed by rRT-PCR)
Analysis of confirmed cases per 100 tests
When the lockdown began on 24 March, we were conducting only about 2000 tests per day, with 2.3 confirmed cases per 100 tests. On the 27 March, confirmed cases per 100 tests stood at 2.5 cases.
On 2 April, the number of tests was raised to 8000 tests per day. And out of 100 cases the number of positive COVID-19 stood at only 3.8 cases. After that, the number of tests per day across the country increased. On 16 April alone 27000 tests were done.
However, when we look at the number of positive cases per 100 tests, it can be seen that only a small increase is shown. It increased to 4.4 cases per 100 tests. This comes after India conducted more than 3 lakh tests. We must also remember that our daily tests rose from 2000 to 27,000.
As of 19 April, out of 4,01,586 tests done in India, only 17,299 are tested positive, with 4.4 cases per 100 tests.
If we consider the total tests til 19 April, 4,01,586 / 17,299 = 23.21. That is, out of one is 23 tests turns to be COVID-19 positive. We must remember that in Japan it takes only 11 tests to get one COVID-19 infected person. In the United States, it is 5.3 and in Italy, it is 6.7.
The steady value of ‘confirmed cases per 100 tests‘ suggests that India’s test strategy is right. Therefore India’s testing methods are not faulty as Rahul Gandhi tries to suggest.
Massive testing is also not needed where no cases are reported. India is testing all those who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 instead of testing every single person. At a time like this, we cannot go around testing 130 crore Indians just to make sure that there is no community spread.
The Indian government’s protocol testing method seems logical and fit for a country like India. Rahul Gandhi must remember that Italy has a population of only 6 crore, which is far behind India.