To curtail the number of cases resulting from the impending third Covid-19 wave, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to increase testing to 50,000 from next week. Until mid-April, the civic body was conducting 40,000 to 50,000 tests, which dropped below 30,000 during the lockdown.
Civic officials said though the dreaded Delta-plus variant is still not a ‘variant of concern’, it has been around in the state since April. One sample from a 78-year-old woman from Mumbai and another from Thane tested positive for this variant, which is spreading like wildfire in the US and the UK. The BMC said increasing testing and genome sequencing will help the state soldier against it.
According to the BMC dashboard, 6,16,280 individuals have been tested for Covid-19 in the last 23 days, which means on an average 26,794 tests were conducted every day. While an average of 50,000 tests was conducted per day in Mumbai mid-April, they have now come down to a daily average of 20,000-25,000.
Additional civic chief Suresh Kakani said though the number of cases has dipped in the past two weeks, increased testing would cover most of the population before the dreaded third wave hits. “As everything is opening up gradually, cases are rising. We want to diagnose at the earliest and provide treatment to those contracting the virus. Further lifting of curbs would mean more cases, which is why we have decided to increase testing to 50,000 every day,” he said. As per doctors from the Maharashtra Covid-19 Task Force, Mumbai can’t be considered in isolation. They said the cases are gradually coming down across the state, but not everywhere in the country. “To say that the second wave is over and cases have declined drastically, we should wait till September-end and then relook at the numbers,” they said.
Experts believe the city needs to keep up high testing despite the low positivity rate. Dr Rahul Pandit, another member of the task force, said he has always been in favour of intensified testing, even if the number of cases drops. He added, “We may record a lower positivity rate during this time, but until we have it below 2%, testing in large numbers is a better strategy.”
This, he said, can be done by contact tracing within the first 24 hours of increased cases. “We can target areas that have reported more cases. Eventually, we will see isolated cases and not in clusters. We can’t slack off if cases dip,” he said.
Dr Sushrut Ganpule, consulting pulmonologist from Pune’s Jupiter Hospital, said the Delta variant created a huge challenge for hospitals during the third wave. Now with cases of Delta-plus variant (with higher transmissibility) rising across the country, including Maharashtra, higher testing is needed. “We have to be very careful for the next couple of months,” he said.