Madhya Pradesh, hard hit by Covid-19, has no info on samples for 10 days; experts concerned
It was on April 26 when the health department said in its daily bulletin that the cumulative number of samples collected stands at 38,708.
Unlike its neighbouring states Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - which continue to share their Covid-19 data on the number of samples collected and tested with the public - the Madhya Pradesh government has stopped doing so.
It was on April 26 when the health department said in its daily bulletin that the cumulative number of samples collected stands at 38,708. As many as 8,439 test reports were said to be awaited from laboratories till then.
Interestingly, the April 26 bulletin was immediately followed by another bulletin in which the number of cumulative samples was missing and so was the number of reports awaited. The second bulletin had components like the total number of sample reports, positive cases and negative reports only but there were huge discrepancies between the figures on these components as mentioned in both reports.
The number of sample reports dipped by 5,000. There was also a huge gap of 9,000 between negative/rejected samples number as mentioned in the first report and negative reports as mentioned in the second one.
As per the information obtained from districts on Wednesday, as many as 10,899 samples were taken in Indore, one of the Covid-19 hotspots in the country. The district reported 1,654 patients and 79 deaths till Tuesday.
In Ujjain, another hotspot in the state, 3,522 samples were collected so far; in capital Bhopal, the number is about 15,000.
While the state government continues to remain silent, health experts say it is only with a high number of testing and transparency in the government’s conduct that the battle against Covid-19 can be won.
Last Saturday, the number of people tested in the country for Covid-19 crossed a million.
In a joint letter to health secretary and director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), public health experts Dr Biswaroop Chatterjee, Amulya Nidhi and SR Azad said, “Madhya Pradesh is testing lesser compared to other badly hit states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Rajasthan.”
“As of May 5, the state has done a total number of 54,595 tests which translates to about 602 tests per million whereas Maharashtra has conducted 1,628 tests per million with total 18,2884 tests so far. In Gujarat, Delhi and Rajasthan the tests per million stand at 1,483, 4,162 and 1,970 respectively,” they said in the letter.
They addedc, “It is a matter of deep concern that April 27 onwards, the state government stopped providing data on total samples and pending test results. Given that almost 1.5 months have passed since the first case was found and cases are constantly increasing the state still has only 10 government testing labs and three private labs.”
“The Covid-19 situation has worsened fast in Madhya Pradesh with a total of 3,049 reported positive cases and 176 deaths as of May 5. The state’s fatality rate is 5.77% against the national 3.42% and its test positivity rate is 5.58% against the national average of 3.87 per cent,” the experts said.
The letter underlines an immediate need to increase tests, take corrective action without any further delay and adopt a people-centric, transparent and efficient testing strategy in place by setting up more labs, create a strong supply chain for acquiring testing kits, doing more tests and share data transparently with the public.
When contacted, additional chief secretary, Health department Mohd Suleman said, “Government of India has decided that only ICMR test data is recognised. So we are only considering the data given by ICMR recognised testing labs. That is included in the bulletin. Labs don’t accept samples which are not as per the ICMR protocol. So the collected samples don’t get tested if they are not in line with protocol.”