Tests go down despite rising Covid cases in Pune

Pune’s positivity ratio has also gone up to 30%, which was around 23% during the first week of August
A health worker working at a Covid-19 testing centre at Dhankawadi in Pune.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)
A health worker working at a Covid-19 testing centre at Dhankawadi in Pune.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)
Published on Sep 27, 2020 04:45 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | BySteffy Thevar

Pune city has been recording rising number of Covid positive cases over the past month. Even though the tally of fresh cases is unrelenting, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has not increased the number of swabs being tested each day.

Pune’s positivity ratio has also gone up to 30%, which was around 23% during the first week of August. This means for every 100 people tested, 30 turn out to be positive. While experts believe that with each case, the number of contacts and infectivity rises. However, the PMC claims that it is following all ICMR protocols for testing and that due to lesser movement, fewer people come in close contact with the positive patient.

According to the data from the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) health department, the average positivity rate during September for the city stands at 30.58% with 5,924 average tests conducted in 24 hours for which 1,749 new positives were recorded. The city saw its highest positivity rate of 61.21% on September 7, which was a Monday and included pending test reports of Sunday, a public holiday. On that day, Pune witnessed 2,053 new positives - 1,144 through RT-PCR and 909 through rapid antigen detection kits - and 3,354 samples were collected.

Compared to September, PMC conducted more tests - in the range of 6,000 to 7,000 - during the Ganesh festival. This took the August average testing to 5,643. The positivity rate stood at 23.50% for August.

Experts say that with every new positive case, further contact tracing would lead to more number of cases. Dr Abhijit More, state co-convener of Jan Aarogya Abhiyan, said, “Such a high positivity rate only means that there is a high prevalence of the infection in the area. About 30% of the samples of those tested are positive. To break the chain it is necessary that every contact is tested. The civic body should increase testing through rapid antigen detection kits even though there could be false negatives, at least those who test positive must be isolated properly. Also, the civic body refuses to provide a soft copy to all the patients to give them assurance and reduce panic among patients. Otherwise, if the patients are not assured they would not help in contact tracing which is crucial in containing the spread of the virus.”

Additional commissioner Shatanu Goel, said, “We are trying to utilise maximum capacity of testing. However, the maximum capacity of RT-PCR for government labs in Pune is 1,950 per day and private labs is 3,000-3,500 per day. We are also using rapid antigen detection kits for about 1,500 samples, but we cannot do too many tests due to the technical aspect of it. We are testing about -4 high risk contacts for every individual which again is subjective to if the contacts are symptomatic or asymptomatic.”

The ICMR guidelines, according to Goel, state that asymptomatic contacts should be tested on 5th and 10th day only if they show symptoms. “Most of the patients are isolated at homes as more cases are being reported from societies and when we inquire them for contact tracing they only report about their family members who are tested as per the guidelines,” he said.

Goel also said that there is less movement of people as most private offices are shut and people venture out only to get groceries or vegetables for only a few hours. He also added that there is no shortage of staff, but only the limited capacity of testing in various labs is restricting the number. “Pune is definitely one of the highest testing cities in the state and one of the highest in the country too, when it comes to tests per million. We are also talking to government labs including NIV, Sassoon and IISER and also private labs to increase testing capacity for the city,” said Goel.

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