COVID-19: Health Sec writes to states on lower RT-PCR tests; encourages ‘continued vigil’

Despite the significant decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has sent a notice to several states like Nagaland, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Kerala, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Ladakh for reducing the number of daily tests conducted. He said in the letter, “In the absence of sustained levels of sufficient testing, it is very difficult to determine the true level of infection spread in a geography.”

He added in the letter, “With a majority of countries seeing multiple surges in Covid cases in recent times and a few developed countries facing even fourth and fifth wave despite high levels of Covid vaccination, there is a need for continued vigil given the unpredictable and contagious nature of the disease.”

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan writes to Nagaland, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Kerala, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal & Ladakh over a decline in weekly #COVID19 testing rates pic.twitter.com/Amj4C0ga9S

— ANI (@ANI) November 24, 2021

The state of Nagaland has reduced its testing from 1,250 average daily tests in the week of August 23-29 to 342 average daily tests on the week ending November 22. The contrast was worrying for the government, Bhushan said, “It is also worrying to note that the state has recorded a positivity of 1.5 per cent in the week ending 22nd November, having stagnated over the past 4 weeks, with an abysmally low share of RT-PCR tests i.e. 8.2o/o. Further, worrying trends with regards to tests, tests per million, positivity rate and higher dependence on Rapid Antigen tests have been observed in various districts of the State.” He continued, “Annexure 1 lists down the number of tests conducted in the districts in the last 4 weeks, the weekly positivity rates, average TPM and the average share of RT-PCR tests in the total tests done.”

Health Secretary: Due to festivals & vacations, governments must not lower their guards

Bhushan warned that the states cannot afford to lower their guards as the people are becoming more social and even though the vaccination rates in the country have significantly improved, the government must still be careful about the testing. He added, “It is important that the State maintains high testing given the recent increase in travelling, due to various events such as marriages, festive celebrations, vacations having either recently concluded or underway. A decrease in testing would undermine the actual infection spread within the community.” Bhushan concluded, “Also, with the onset of winter and increased pollution in some states, prevalence of ILI/SARI and respiratory distress symptoms should be closely monitored, with tests conducted regularly for timely monitoring and clustering of cases for early hotspot identification.”

(With inputs from Ministry of Health)

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