State is not putting enough to the test
BL Soni

Mumbai: Despite Maharashtra having the capacity to perform 38,000 Covid tests a day, as on date only 14,000 to 15,000 tests are being done across its 97 testing centres daily. This means only 40 per cent of the total testing capacity is presently in use and despite this, the state tops the list for highest number of cases in India. According to experts, if the authorities were to conduct 38,000 tests daily, then the number of cases would skyrocket to 10,000 a day, from the current 3,000-plus. Except that the state government says random testing is not required.

When Maharashtra reported its first corona case on March 9, there was only one laboratory - the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, which was the sole testing centre. But 96 days after the pandemic outbreak, the state has increased the number of its authorised testing facilities to 97 and in the next two days this number will be 100. Of these, 57 are government laboratories, while the rest are private. There has been a 26 per cent rise in testing capacity in the last 10 days but only one-third of this is being utilised.

According to the data of the Medical Education and Drugs Department (MEDD), until now, 1,54,177 samples have been tested for Covid from June 2 to June 12, which translates to 14,016 tests per day. More than 15,000 tests were conducted on four occasions. At present, 16 of every 100 tested are identified as infected with Sars-Cov-2 or Covid-19. Had the state been testing at optimal capacity, the one-lakh mark would have been crossed earlier, experts say.

Almost 80 per cent of people are asymptomatic or 'silent' carriers. Although there is little chance they will spread the infection, they are still infectious. 

However, the state health officers have claimed they are following the ICMR protocol of testing, according to which they are carrying out an adequate number of tests. “We cannot do random tests, as these increase the chance of false negatives, where a person tests negative but is infected. Moreover, our test results are better, with an infection detection rate of 19.5 per 100 in government labs,” said Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, secretary, MEDD. 

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