New Delhi: Delhi has been reeling under a deadly second wave and has witnessed a sharp rise in Covid cases since the last fortnight. However, in the last four days, both cases and testing have dipped in the national capital.
According to Delhi government data, in the last four days, the national capital has seen a marginal drop in daily cases from 24,331 on 23 April to 24,103 (24 April) to 22,933 (25 April) and 20,201 (26 April). During the same period, though, daily tests fell from 75,037 (23 April) to 74,702 (24 April), 75,912 (25 April) and 57,690 (26 April).
As of 26 April, Delhi has recorded a total of 10,47,916 Covid cases, with 14,628 deaths and 9,40,930 recoveries.
Several diagnostics labs ThePrint spoke to cited lack of manpower, infection among staff and backlog of cases as the reasons for fall in testing numbers.
“We have enough kits, enough machines but where is the manpower to collect samples and work these machines? Updating the data is also a cumbersome process that takes time and labs are now forced to take fewer samples because we face action if data is not updated in 24 hours,” said Dr Gauri Agarwal of Genestrings Diagnostic Centre Private Limited.
“There is a backlog of results as well as there are fewer people to collect samples because our manpower has been affected by several staff members getting infected,” said an official at Star Imaging and Path Lab Private Limited who did not want to be named.
Several officials also said they had to stop sample collection to deal with the manpower shortage and are now encouraging people to come to the lab to get tested.
“All our paramedic staff have fallen ill so we are not collecting samples this week. New staff will come in a few days after quarantining and we will resume sample collection then,” said an official at Sterling Accuris Diagnostics on condition of anonymity.
“Unless the patient is immobile or really unwell we are urging them to come to the lab to get tested as there simply aren’t enough people to collect samples,” said Dr Agarwal.
Many labs also cited lack of enough skilled technicians as a reason for delay in testing. “Even if I employ new personnel to fill in for those who have fallen sick, what happens to them when they come back after recovery? Do I let them go? There is also a lack of skilled technicians. I cannot just hire anybody. I need trained people and there aren’t that many,” said a senior official at a leading private lab in Delhi on condition of anonymity.
ThePrint reached Dr Nutan Mundeja, Director General Health Services, Delhi government via phone and email for a comment but did not receive a response until the time of publishing this report.
ThePrint also reached Health Minister Satyendar Jain via email but there was no response until the time of publication of this report.
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Backlog of cases
Diagnostics labs said sample collection has been affected due to a huge backlog of cases since the last few weeks.
“There has been some delay in giving results. For instance, our hospital alone is testing around 300-400 patients every day in comparison to the 30-40 that we were doing last month. So this has caused a delay in results but tests are happening,” said S.P. Byotra, chairman, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
“Labs are trying to clear their backlog of cases before they take in new samples. That is why it may appear that testing is low because fresh sample collection is low,” said Dr Dhiraj Malik, medical superintendent, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital.
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Need to ramp up testing
Experts that ThePrint spoke to said there is a need to ramp up testing in the national capital to contain the spread of the infection.
“It is incorrect to decrease testing while cases are surging. If anything, more tests should be done to ensure more people are identified and isolated in time so that infection doesn’t spread and is well-contained,” said Giridhar Babu, professor and head, lifecourse epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
However, several labs claim they have already increased testing capacity.
“We have almost doubled capacity in the last month and we are still ramping up capacity. I will be able to share the details of our new capacity next week. I don’t know why the government data is showing fewer tests as we have clearly increased capacity,” said Dr Shrey Malhotra, Lal Path Lab.
“We have increased capacity from 1,000 samples to 3,000 samples in a day from the beginning of April to now. How can tests come down by half when we have increased capacity? We need an explanation on this from authorities,” said a senior official at a leading private lab in Delhi on condition of anonymity.
Officials at Delhi government hospitals, however, said the decrease in testing may be due to dip in screening.
“There may be multiple reasons; the number of people walking into hospitals to get tested is fewer now, public health officials would also go to different areas and screen people there, that may have decreased due to the lockdown and home collection has also reduced the number to some extent,” said Dr B.L. Sherwal, medical director, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality hospital.
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By giving out freebies Delhi only has freebie seeking population and productive people have moved out to Noida/Gr Noida/Gurgaon – only central government bureaucrats are there in Delhi and they too want to move out. Delhi only has slums and shopkeepers in its expanse.
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