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Health department banking on mass testing to contain Covid-19 spread

By Archana Mishra, Gurugram
PUBLISHED ON NOV 26, 2020 10:42 PM IST

The district health department, in an effort to bring down the positivity rate and flatten the curve, has planned to conduct more than 10,000 tests on Saturday.

Complying with the Haryana health department directive to conduct mass testing across the state, to control the active transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus, health officials have decided to go for aggressive-targeted testing in hot spots having a test positivity rate between 6% and 10% or higher. The plan is to hold about 50 testing camps in a single day across the district, health department officials said.

On November 21, the department had administered 10,200 Covid-19 tests, the highest number of tests done in a single day so far. Considering the district’s capacity to test 16,000 samples in a day, Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer, said that testing will be more than 10,000 this time. The department is likely to hold a meeting with private labs and hospitals on Friday.

The state health department on Wednesday announced that more than 50,000 samples will be collected across 22 districts, almost 30% more than their daily sample collection, on November 28. Districts have been told to coordinate with the state health authorities and private labs to conduct mass testing, which will comprise 80% of Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests, to gauge the exact prevalence of infection.

Rajeev Arora, additional chief secretary, state health department, on Wednesday said that sampling would be targeted as well as random to detect new cases, while ensuring their timely isolation.

HOT SPOTS WITH HIGH TEST POSITIVITY RATE

For targeted testing, the Gurugram health department has identified some of the critical areas having test positivity rate — total positives out of the samples collected — higher than 10%. This includes five urban areas – Patel Nagar, Laxman Vihar, Om Nagar, Feroz Gandhi Colony and two rural blocks — Sohna and Daulatabad. The ideal positivity rate should be less than 5%, as per the World Health Organisation guidelines.

“About 50 testing camps are likely to take place on Saturday, including over 15 routine camps that are conducted every day under different UPHCs. On the mass testing day, camps will be held in all 33 UPHCs and rural PHCs along with 16 additional camps in critical areas,” said Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer.

Other areas having heavy footfall, like Sadar Bazar and wholesale grain and vegetable market at Khandsa will also be covered. In these areas, the test positivity rate is higher than 6%, with high chances of having super-spreaders of the virus.

Yadav, on Thursday, held a meeting with the Gurugram Police, seeking assistance to carry out Covid-19 tests at Khandsa and the entry/exit points of Sadar Bazar. Testing in these areas will start from 6am.

A senior official of the Gurugram Police, who attended the meeting, said, “The department has directed local teams to encourage shopkeepers in every nook and corner of the market to get tested. With the help of the market association and councillors, we have floated the idea that if all shopkeepers get tested, the market can claim to establish a benchmark in Covid-19 testing.”

USE OF DRONES

Officials are also planning to use drones to create awareness about the testing camps and to keep an eye on the congested lanes. The plan is, however, yet to be approved by the Gurugram Police, said Yadav. Random testing will also be held at border areas, keeping in mind farmers’ movement.

Officials are, however, still working on the availability of manpower and the timely delivery of test results to make mass testing a fruitful exercise in controlling the transmission. Mass testing is helpful if test results are delivered within 48-72 hours to control the spread.

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