‘Increased 10 times’: Bengal after criticism over low Covid-19 tests

Updated on May 08, 2020 06:59 PM IST

Allegations had also surfaced that the state was not sending enough kits to the ICMR-NICED, which is a regional level Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) under the union health ministry.

Medics in PPE suits take a swab sample for Covid-19 testing at Muchibazar, ward 13 of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) in Kolkata (Photo by Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
Medics in PPE suits take a swab sample for Covid-19 testing at Muchibazar, ward 13 of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) in Kolkata (Photo by Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
Hindustan Times, Kolkata | ByJoydeep Thakur | Edited by Ashutosh Tripathi

The West Bengal government claimed on Friday that it has upped its Covid-19 testing by 10 times in the past one month. The state government had earlier received flak for not testing enough.

Despite an increase, it is lagging behind Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, among others, in testing. While Bengal has conducted 32,572 tests till May 7, all these states had crossed the 30,000-mark by the third week of April.

“We have increased the number of tests conducted per day more than 10 times since April first week. While on April 6 we had tested only 186 samples, on May 7 we tested 2611 samples,” said a senior official of the state health department.

While the opposition parties and various doctors’ platforms had been criticising the state for low tests, the union home ministry sent a letter to the state’s chief secretary saying that Bengal’s response to Covid-19 has been characterised by a very low rate of testing in proportion to the population and a very high rate of mortality of 13.2%, which is the highest for any state.

“The number of tests per million is now around 300. Even 10 days ago it was around 188 per million. We are lagging in tests (per million) because of various reasons. Initially, we didn’t have enough laboratories. Later, kits were found to be faulty, the matter had to be taken up with the ICMR,” said a top official of the state health department.

Allegations had also surfaced that the state was not sending enough kits to the ICMR-NICED, which is a regional level Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) under the union health ministry.

“While we started with only one testing facility in March, the state now has 17 testing facilities, including five private laboratories. In many districts, where the disease has a low prevalence rate, pool sampling is being done to cover as many people. We had also started rapid antibody tests but it had to be stopped after kits were found to be faulty by the ICMR,” said another health department official.

With more tests being done every day the number of Covid-19 patients in the state has almost doubled in the last one week. While the number of infected patients on May 1 was 795, it has shot up to 1,548 till May 7. Around 79 people have died so far due to Covid-19, while another 72 Covd-19 patients have died due to comorbidity, the state government said.

While West Bengal has just crossed 30,000 tests, some states have already conducted more than one lakh tests. Maharashtra has already tested more than two lakh samples, while Andhra Pradesh has done around 1.5 lakh tests till May 7.

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