The Union health ministry cited a drop in weekly Covid-19 testing rates and ordered 11 states and two Union territories to increase testing to avoid missing infections. “While there has been a significant decrease in new cases with 10,195 average daily cases reported in the week ending 22nd November, it has also been observed that there has been a decrease in weekly testing rates,” wrote Union health and family welfare secretary Rajesh Bhushan to these states and territories on Tuesday.
The states and territories directed to increase the testing are Nagaland, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Kerala, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh
The letter said in the absence of sustained levels of sufficient testing, it is very difficult to determine the true level of infection spread. “With a majority of countries seeing multiple surges in Covid cases in recent times and a few developed countries facing even fourth and fifth wave despite high levels of Covid vaccination, there is a need for continued vigil given the unpredictable and contagious nature of the disease…”
The ministry sought all efforts to preserve the gains made so far and to prevent deterioration of the Covid-19 scenario across the country as the pandemic was not yet over.
In a letter to Nagaland, which HT has accessed, the ministry warned against rising case positivity in certain districts, attributing it to, among other things, fall in Covid-19 testing. “Nagaland has reported 342 average daily tests as on week ending 22nd November. This is in stark contrast to a high of 1,250 average daily tests conducted in the week of 23- 29th August. It is also worrying to note that the state has recorded a positivity of 1.5% in the week ending 22nd November, having stagnated over the past 4 weeks, with an abysmally low share of RT-PCR tests. i.e.,8.2%,” it said. “Further, worrying trends with regards to tests, tests per million, positivity rate and higher dependence on Rapid Antigen tests have been observed in various districts of the State… The positivity in districts such as Mokukchong and Peren has been above 2.5%, with RT-PCR share falling below a decent proportion of the total tests.”
The Centre has asked states to maintain high testing considering the increase in travelling due to weddings, festivals, and vacations. It added a decrease in testing would make it difficult to know the actual infection spread.
The ministry has also directed the states to closely monitor the prevalence of respiratory distress symptoms, influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory infection with the onset of winter and increased pollution in some states. It added tests should be conducted regularly for timely identifying actual Covid-19 cases. The ministry asked the states to keep a watch on the clustering of cases for early identification and containment.