Testing times ahead as Gujarat battles Covid-19

With the state government’s maximum efforts at containing the coronavirus concentrated in five cities, fewer tests in majority of districts may serve as an eye-opener in the days to come; Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara and Bhavnagar districts account for over 70 per cent of the total tests conducted in Gujarat


By Nischal Sanghavi

The road to redemption for Gujarat in its fight against coronavirus is testing and more testing. With the state government focused on containing the spread of the virus in the major cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara and Bhavnagar, the majority of the other districts where fewer tests have been conducted may serve as an eye-opener in the days to come. The cases of concern are the asymptomatic carriers, patients with mild disease and patients with non-respiratory symptoms.

Meanwhile, the total number of Covid-19 cases in India touched 4,789 and the death toll now stands at 124, as per the Union Health Ministry’s 6pm update on Tuesday.

As per the state health department, it has conducted 3,552 tests across the state till now, out of which 175 have tested positive, while 3,257 are negative and the reports of 120 cases are pending.

In the last 24 hours, the government conducted 673 tests in Gujarat, of which 32 tested positive, 521 were negative and 120 are pending, sources said.

According to health department sources, Gujarat has conducted 3,552 tests, of which 175 were found positive, which is almost 5% and in alignment with the national average. The average for Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar is also in alignment. With 83 positive cases in over 1,000 tests, Ahmedabad has 7% rate, Vadodara has 4%, Surat 5%, Rajkot 4%, Bhavnagar 5%. Also, Mumbai had a 4% average when 10,000 tests were completed on April 5. This means more the tests, more the likelihood of positive cases. The number of positive cases of Covid-19 are likely to increase as more people are tested.

Fewer tests conducted in 85% districts of Gujarat

As per information sourced from the state government website, while Ahmedabad has conducted over 1,000 tests, there are 11 districts of Gujarat that had not conducted even 20 tests as on April 6. While Amreli, Bharuch, Botad, Chhota Udepur, Dahod, Dangs, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Junagadh, Mahisagar, Narmada, Panchmahal and Tapi have tested less than 20 people for Covid-19, there are 4 districts where the administration has not even tested 10 people. In fact, out of the 33 districts of Gujarat, only five districts have tested more than 100 people. If we take into account the total number of tests, over 70 per cent of tests have been conducted in these five districts.

If there is a suspect, we put him/ her in 14-day quarantine and if they develop symptoms then they are tested for Covid-19.

Sujal Kumar Mayatra, Collector, Chhota Udepur

We follow ICMR guidelines for testing the patient. The guidelines specify 14-day contact history, relative, severe acute respiratory problem

Amit Arora, Collector, Panchmahal

Surprisingly, Panchmahal district administration has tested only 8 persons in a population of over 25 lakh, with 1 case testing positive. Similarly,
Chhote Udepur has a positive case, but has tested only 15 people as yet.

Panchmahals Collector Amit Arora confirmed they have tested only 8patients till now. “We are following the ICMR guidelines for testing the patient. The guidelines specify 14-day contact history, close relative, severe acute respiratory problem. If a person falls under any of this category then only we check them,” Arora said.

As per Chhote Udepur Collector Sujal Kumar Mayatra, “We are following the protocols. If there is a suspect, we put him/her in 14-day quarantine and if they develop symptoms then they are tested for Covid-19. We have till now tested 15 persons.”

Citizens tested per million

As per a report, India’s ratio of testing is 75 for every million people. In the country, Delhi and Kerala have tested over 300 people per million, states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan have tested over 125 people, while Gujarat with a population of 6.88 crore has tested less than 50 per million. According to Dr Abhishek Raval, consulting cardiologist at Wockhardt Hospital in Rajkot, “India’s current testing for Covid-19 is 102 tests per 1 million population. This is comparatively lower as compared to that of USA (5,841 tests per million), Spain (7,693 tests per million), Italy (11,937 tests per million), Iran (2,214 tests per million) and South Korea (8,996). However, increasing frequency of tests, especially in peripheral districts may reveal the burden of this disease with ‘ice- berg’ phenomenon. I suggest administration should drastically increase the number of tests, because there are several asymptomatic carriers, patients with mild disease and patients with non-respiratory symptoms. This patients may not seem suspicious on primary consideration, but, they could be the carriers.”

Increasing the test frequency may add to the cost burden of the government. However, it may help us plan some sound steps in near future to curtail the spread of the disease, Dr Raval said.

Regarding the low rate of testing, Jayanti Ravi, principal secretary, health, said, “We are testing people in hotspot zones. We are not doing carpet testing in all areas. But we do test suspects and collect samples from other districts. In places like Patan and Anand we have collected samples based on doubt and that is how we got cases. We go to hotspot and collect samples. We will also carry out house-to-house survey once again and with detailed screening.”

(Inputs by Alok Brahmbhatt)

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