Telangana trails Andhra by a huge margin in numbers of Covid-19 tests
The Andhra Pradesh government has claimed to have crossed the one million mark in conducting tests, but Telangana has reported only one-tenth of it till now. By Monday morning, the total number of tests conducted in AP was 10,33,852, whereas only 1,15,835 tests were conducted in Telangana.Updated: Jul 06, 2020 17:35 IST
Despite the sharp rise in the number of positive cases of Covid-19 in the last one month, Telangana has been lagging far behind neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in testing, tracing and treatment of the people affected with the virus.
The Andhra Pradesh government has claimed to have crossed the one million mark in conducting tests, but Telangana has reported only one-tenth of it till now. By Monday morning, the total number of tests conducted in AP was 10,33,852, whereas only 1,15,835 tests were conducted in Telangana.
“Right from the beginning, we have been aggressively implementing the three-pronged strategy of tracing, testing and treating to contain the spread and intensity of Covid-19. We have been trying to cover every household to ensure that no suspect is left untested,” Andhra Pradesh nodal officer for Covid-19 Dr Arja Sreekanth said.
He pointed out that Andhra had started its journey from zero labs for testing on March 6 and it now has 78 facilities, including government, private and TrueNat labs along with dedicated hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients.
“While it took 59 days to complete the first one lakh tests for Covid-19, the state has consistently increased the testing capacity and completed the last three lakh tests in just 12 days,” he said.
Stating that extensive testing has been the weapon in the battle against Covid-19, Sreekanth said the state government had made use of the services of village volunteers for community surveillance, monitoring the health condition of the people. So far, the state has reported 238 deaths and 20,009 Covid-19 positive cases.
The tests per million population in Andhra Pradesh has reached 19,047 against the national average of 6,878 tests per million. With extensive testing and timely treatment, the mortality rate stands at 1.24 per cent which is much lower than the national average of 2.86 per cent.
On the other hand, the rate of testing has been very low in Telangana from the beginning. In fact, the state medical and health department had been reluctant to disclose the total number of samples tested in the regular media bulletins for quite some time.
It was on May 16, that the department disclosed, while presenting data analytics of testing based on gender and age distribution among the patients that a total of 23,388 samples were tested till then. It was exactly after a month– from June 16, that the department started sharing the details of testing.
On June 16, it disclosed that as many as 44,431 samples were tested since the first case was reported in the state on March 1. So, between May 16 and June 16, only 21,043 tests were conducted in a span of 31 days – an average of just 678 tests per day.
Between June 16 and till now, as many as 71,404 samples were tested in a span of 19 days – an average of 3,758 tests per day. This is basically because the Telangana government has stepped up testing and allowed private labs to test the samples, following the visit of central teams and a reprimand from the state high court.
“We have taken up 50,000 rapid tests in Hyderabad and surrounding districts, besides allowing private laboratories for the first time. We are going by the ICMR guidelines for testing, instead of doing indiscriminate testing,” state medical and health director, G Srinivasa Rao said.
Compared to 78 testing labs in Andhra including seven private labs, Telangana has only 36 testing labs including 22 private ones. However, the Telangana health department has noticed that the positive cases have been shooting up abnormally ever since the private labs have started testing.
In the last one month, the number of positive cases for Covid-19 went up by over 19,000 – from 3,290 to 22,312. The number of deaths has also gone up from 113 to 288, an increase of 175 fatalities in one month.
“Our expert teams have found a lot of discrepancies in the testing by certain private labs which has resulted in a high positivity rate. In one lab, it was as high as 71 per cent. We have served notices to 13 private labs seeking an explanation and asking them to rectify errors in testing,” Rao said.
Health expert Somasekhar Mulugu, however, said the figures being furnished by the state government cannot be taken for granted and there had been several discrepancies between the bulletins and actual figures.
“What is more important for the government is to create sufficient health infrastructure in state-run hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients. The existing infrastructure is grossly insufficient to tackle the increasing pandemic,” he said.