Covid hotspots

Make worst-hit districts self-reliant in testing, treatment

Covid hotspots

Photo for representation only. - File photo

During the second wave, Covid-19 has spread its tentacles in every nook and cranny of the country, with 533 districts (73 per cent) out of 734 reporting a test positivity rate of more than 10 per cent. There are more than 30 such districts each in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. In 16 other states, 10-30 districts each are reporting at least 10 per cent positivity. The Centre has told the respective states to undertake strict containment measures in these districts. It’s a no-brainer that the best way to prevent residents from thronging neighbouring districts or states for testing and treatment is to ensure adequate facilities in their own backyard. The worst-affected places need to be made self-reliant in Covid care so that the movement of people can be restricted for breaking the chain of transmission. Otherwise, the situation will also deteriorate in the districts which have a low positivity rate as of now, putting greater strain on the already overstretched healthcare set-up.

Amid the surge in rural areas, the Centre’s decision to ‘rationalise’ RT-PCR tests and increase RAT (Rapid Antigen Tests) testing is questionable. Though the RAT is cheaper and easier to perform, and provides quick results, it is far less accurate than RT-PCR. According to studies, antigen tests correctly identify Covid-19 infection in over 70 per cent of the people with symptoms and in around 60% of those who are asymptomatic. In contrast, the lab test has an accuracy rate of 90-100 per cent.

Relaxing the Health Ministry’s norm of 70 per cent RT-PCR and 30 per cent RAT would lead to a sharp rise in the number of false negatives. A significant proportion of Covid-infected people, who will go by misleading test reports, won’t self-isolate themselves and would end up spreading infection. The way forward for the authorities is to ramp up RT-PCR testing infrastructure at the earliest. If it’s a toss-up between accuracy and speed, the former must be preferred. This is not the time to cut corners. The tried-and-tested drill has to be conducted across the board without fail.

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