COVID-19 testing in Maharashtra has reduced by almost 23 per cent in the last two months. According to the data provided by the state Health Department, 36,82,465 individuals have undergone testing between November 1 and December 31 compared to 47,55,831 between September 1 and October 31. It is also reflected in the daily testing numbers that have dropped from an average of 79,000 to 61,000 in the same period.
State officials attributed the dip to an overall decline in positive cases, which has led to a fall in the volume of contacts traced and tested.
Dr Pradeep Awate, state surveillance officer, said that tests are conducted as per the requirement and without aiming at any daily figure. “Testing has dropped by 9 per cent to 10 per cent, but that's also because cases have dropped from 8.70 lakh between September 1 and October 31 to 2.48 lakh between November 1 and December 31. Naturally, that has brought down the count of high-risk and low-risk contacts,” he said. Moreover, the footfall of patients with influenza-like-illnesses at the fever clinics too has declined.
Experts have advised the government to keep up the aggressive testing. After Diwali, the daily average testing dropped down to 64,000, which then increased over 70,000. “The drop in the tests was a result of holidays and also the complacency that had come with the dip in the caseload, which dropped between 2,500 and 3,500,” a state Health Department official said.
Meanwhile, nine districts -Mumbai, Akola, Aurangabad, Buldhana, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Nandurbar, Sindhudurg and Washim- could achieve more than 50 per cent of their RT-PCR test targets. Of these, only Sindhudurg and Washim could reach 70 per cent of the target.
Health experts have raised concerns over the reduction in testing across Maharashtra in view of the new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They opine that the state Health Department should increase their testing. Like, on Tuesday, only 57,110 COVID-19 tests were conducted, which is too less compared to what was conducted in the month of September and October. “It is good news that cases have reduced, but we cannot reduce the testing, as there will be many cases that will be left undetected and can be reason for infecting it to others. The state government should think about increasing the testing instead of reducing it,” he said.