An employee wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) disinfects a display at a lobby at the ITC Maurya Sheraton Hotel ahead of its reopening in New Delhi.(Bloomberg)
An employee wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) disinfects a display at a lobby at the ITC Maurya Sheraton Hotel ahead of its reopening in New Delhi.(Bloomberg)

Covid-19 positivity rate inching up again in Delhi, stands at 7.4%

Positivity rate — the fraction of tests that return positive -- is a crucial metric as experts say it shows how widespread the virus is in the community, and when coupled with an increase new cases, indicates that the virus is spreading fast.
By Jamie Mullick | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 25, 2020 06:29 PM IST

The Covid-19 positivity rate has started rising again in Delhi, with 7.4% of all tests conducted in the last week coming back positive, the highest this number has touched in over a month, suggesting that Delhi may be facing a fresh challenge to control an outbreak it had contained to a considerable extent.

Positivity rate — the fraction of tests that return positive -- is a crucial metric as experts say it shows how widespread the virus is in the community, and when coupled with an increase new cases, indicates that the virus is spreading fast.

The Capital added 1,061 new cases and 13 new deaths according to the government’s Monday bulletin, taking the total number of infections in the city to 162,527 and fatalities to 4,313, according to Delhi government’s health bulletin on Monday.

In terms of the single-day positivity rate, 8.9% of samples tested on Sunday came back positive. This is the highest proportion in nearly a month-and-a-half. Around 10.3% of tests came back positive on July 13 – when cases in the Capital were dropping from the peak. To be sure, single-day positivity rates can be influenced by low testing figures that are generally reported on weekends. This is why experts generally look at average positivity rate, which shows a clearer trend.

The developments come as the number of daily tests in Delhi continued their steady drop from peak levels – 11,910 samples were tested on Sunday, with 8,084 (67.9%) of these being antigen, or rapid tests. Though the number of tests generally reduces on Sundays and holidays, at its peak, the city conducted 24,592 tests a day on August 8. The seven-day average for tests stands at 17,985 -- off the peak of 21,660 for the week ending July 10.

With daily tests hitting a plateau, the average positivity rate has started inching up in the past few weeks. The number, which had dropped from a peak of 31.4% in mid-June to 5.7% at the end of July, was 7.4% in the past week – the highest since July 19, or 36 days ago.

When asked about the positivity rate and the increasing number of infections, Delhi’s health minister Satyendar Jain, said in his daily media briefing that the infection rate in the Capital is still below 10% and “under control”.

“We see the infection rate in ranges of 5-10%, 10-20%, 20-30%, and so on. As on date, the infection rate is well below 10%, whereas Delhi has also seen a time when the infection rate had hit 40%. The current variation of 1-1.5% we are seeing these days is understandable and keeps happening. It is just day-to-day variation,” Jain told reporters.

According to recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO), the positivity rate from a region that has a comprehensive testing programme should be at or below 5% for at least two weeks before it can be considered that the outbreak is under control in the region. In case the positivity rate rises, WHO recommends increasing testing numbers for prolonged periods of time till the number drops below 5%. Delhi has never dropped below this threshold.

To be sure, Delhi has consistently had one of the highest testing rates in the country. The city has conducted over 75,947 tests per million residents against the national average of 26,935.

The Capital was the first major hot spot in the country to have successfully reined in the outbreak last month. At the end of June, the city was reporting over 3,400 cases every day at an average, which then dropped in the 900s in the first week of August. But a recent spurt in cases has meant that this number has been steadily rising again and currently stands at over 1,300 new cases a day. HT reported on Sunday that the new-case trajectory in Delhi is currently at a month’s high.

There were 1,200 new recoveries reported on Monday taking the total number of people who have recovered to 146,588.

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