A health worker testing a child for Covid at the Sector-45 Civil Hospital in Chandigarh on Thursday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)
A health worker testing a child for Covid at the Sector-45 Civil Hospital in Chandigarh on Thursday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

Sharp drop in daily Covid tests in Chandigarh tricity as second wave ebbs away

Testing down by up to 75%; health experts caution against complacency as lower testing may delay detection of cases and invite the third wave
By Tanbir Dhaliwal and Hillary Victor, Chandigarh/mohali/panchkula
PUBLISHED ON JUN 18, 2021 01:54 AM IST

With the Covid-19 pandemic abating, the health departments of the tricity also seem to have lowered their guard, if the number of daily tests is any indicator.

Worst-hit by the pandemic, Mohali has seen the biggest drop of 75% in the number of daily tests between May and June, and the health teams here have also discontinued contact tracing.

In Panchkula, there has been a 50% decline in the number of people tested in the same period, while the figure is a tad better in Chandigarh at 33%.

Health experts have warned against these declining figures, as it may result in delayed detection of positive cases and invite a deadlier third wave.

During the peak of the pandemic in May, nearly 4,500 people were being tested every day in Mohali that logged 19,924 cases and 373 deaths in the month, highest in the tricity.

But since the advent of June, as the cases and deaths dropped to 1,464 and 373, respectively, in the past 17 days, now only 1,200 people are being tested each day.

In Chandigarh, 17,399 people tested positive and 275 succumbed to the virus in May when 3,000 tests were being conducted daily. But the number has decreased to 2,000 per day, as the cases and deaths came down to 1,227 and 49, respectively.

A total of 8,915 cases were reported in Panchkula in May and the district also lost 142 residents to the pandemic in the same month.

As the district battled an unprecedented spike in cases, aggressive sampling was conducted, which helped in early detection of cases. This helped the cases drop to 540 and deaths to 17 in the first 17 days of June, when no fatality was reported on nine days.

But with the decline in pandemic figures, testing has been reduced to less than 1,000 per day. On some days, even less than 500 people were tested.

Fewer people turning up for testing

“The decrease in testing is due to decline in voluntary testing. We have not withdrawn a single person from the testing teams. They are on duty the entire day but get only one or two samples. Rather, we are persuading people to get sampled but they are not cooperating. We can only provide the facility, cannot force anyone,” said Dr Amandeep Kang, director, health services, Chandigarh.

Mohali’s civil surgeon Dr Adarsh Pal Kaur also attributed the sharp dip in testing numbers to people not coming forward. “But on Thursday we got the fresh target of 4,000 tests per day, which we will pursue next week, she said.

A senior official in the Mohali health department said the fall in the number of new cases could be because of lower testing. “Had the department kept up its pace of testing, the cases would have been much higher,” the official added.

“The number of tests should be nearly 50 to 100 times the number of cases being reported. If there are an average of 50 new cases in a city every day then at least 3,000 to 5,000 tests must be conducted. In our experience this helps in early detection of cases,” said Dr Rajesh Kumar, former dean of PGIMER.

“Health teams should also focus on contact tracing and at least 15 contacts of every infected person must be tested. Then all those visiting OPDs with flu-like symptoms, pregnant women, admitted patients and their attendants must also be sampled,” he added.

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