New Delhi: Delhi’s testing rate has dropped, five days after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said there would be a two-fold increase in the number of Covid-19 tests in the national capital.
What has increased, however, is the positivity rate, which is now 9.4 per cent as against the earlier 8.5 per cent last week, according to the Delhi government data.
Data from two sources — an independent database and the Delhi government — show that testing rates remained static for a few days following the announcement, before dropping drastically on 31 August.
According to Covid19.org, the number of tests in Delhi on 26 August, the day of the chief minister’s announcement, was 19,816. By 31 August, it had dropped to 14,389 tests a day.
The period in between saw 21,061 tests conducted on 27 August and 22,933 tests on 28 August. After this initial spike, there was a gradual decline with 20,004 tests on 29 August and 20,437 tests on 30 August.
Available bulletins on the Delhi government’s website, delhifightscorona.in, also show a similar trend.
According to the government data, 5,912 tests (RT PCR, CBNAAT, Truenat) were conducted on 26 August, 7,043 on 27 August, but they were reduced to 6,881 on 30 August and 5,675 on 31 August.
The number of rapid antigen tests too saw a similar curve — from 13,904 antigen tests on 26 August to a spike reaching 16,013 on 27 August, which then dropped to 13,556 on 30 August and a low 8,714 on 31 August.
ThePrint called and sent text messages to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Delhi, Nutan Mundeja, and Padmini Singhla, the secretary for health, but didn’t receive a response until the time of publishing this report.
When ThePrint contacted district magistrates in the city, they said they are working on increasing the testing capacities in their jurisdictions.
“In order to beef up testing we are trying to implement different strategies in different parts of the wards. Different strategies for our static and mobile testing set ups are being implemented,” said one of the DMs, on the condition of anonymity. “We have increased the testing numbers in our individual districts but for further information, it is best that state authorities answer.”
On 26 August, Chief Minister Kejriwal announced that the city’s Covid testing capacity would be increased, within a week, to 40,000 tests from 20,000 a day. The declaration came due to sudden spurt in Covid-19 cases after 17 August and a drop in testing numbers.
Positivity rate increases
Delhi’s positivity rate, however, has seen an increase, which was 9.4 per cent on 31 August.
This in effect means that for every 100 people tested, 9.4 have tested positive.
The national capital’s positivity rate had increased from 8.5 per cent to 9.4 per cent in a matter of five days, between 26 August and 31 August.
The positivity rate saw a drop to 7.8 per cent on 28 August before a spike to 10 per cent on 30 August. This was the time period when the number of tests in Delhi was expected to be doubled.
A high positivity rate is indicative of higher prevalence of infection in the community and reflects a need for increased testing. According to experts, whenever the positivity rate crosses 10, it is an indication that testing is not keeping pace with a rise in cases.
Ramped up testing
After the Delhi chief minister’s announcement, ThePrint had reached out to testing facilities to find out if testing could be doubled in a week’s time.
While some of the labs said that they had the capacity to double testing, others pointed to limited resources and personnel and said that a week’s notice is too little a time-frame to ramp up testing capacity by a double.
Sterling Accuris Diagnostics, a private testing facility in Delhi, said it is still working on increasing its testing capacity. “As of now we are conducting 100-150 tests a day and can test upto 250 samples per day,” a staffer who did not wish to be named said.
Dr Desh Deepak, nodal officer, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, told ThePrint that the hospital is still testing within its capacity but can test one-and-a-half times more than the current number of tests.
“As of now we are able to test all the patients who are walking in and those who are admitted here,” he said. “We are on a daily basis conducting about 200-300 RT PCR tests, while our capacity is about 500 tests. We are also in the works to start our own rapid antigen tests.”