New Delhi: The Modi government has pulled up the KCR administration in Telangana for its low testing numbers, saying the “lack of proactive testing” will not help the state contain the Covid-19 pandemic, ThePrint has learnt.
“We need to chase the virus rather than the virus chase us (sic),” Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan said in a letter dated 7 May to Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar.
Among other things, Sudan noted that the state had a higher positivity rate — the ratio of positive diagnosis to the number of tests conducted — than the national average.
Urging him to review the situation and enhance testing, Sudan pointed out that Telangana accounted for just 1.5 per cent, or 20,754, of the more than 14 lakh RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) tests carried out across India.
The number of samples tested in Telangana, she said, are far behind those for places like Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, which have reported high numbers of Covid-19 cases.
The total number of Covid-19 cases in Telangana as on 17 May was 1,551, with 34 deaths.
ThePrint reached Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar for comment through phone calls and text messages, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
State health minister Eatala Rajender had defended Telangana against allegations of low testing Sunday, saying on Twitter that “the number of tests… is lower means the tests are done for the people for whom indication is there strictly as per the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines”. He also attributed the higher positivity rate to better contact tracing.
Telangana is testing all the contacts including the primary/secondary/ tertiary contacts thats why the yield is better.The number of tests to detect the +ve cases is lower means the tests are done for the people for whom indication is there strictly as per the ICMR guidelines. pic.twitter.com/MGVImv5j1D
— Eatala Rajender (@Eatala_Rajender) May 17, 2020
‘Behind Andhra Pradesh too’
Not only is Telangana behind the rest of India in testing, it even lags behind Andhra Pradesh, from which it was carved out in 2014. A health ministry official said while Andhra Pradesh conducts 9,000 tests per day on average, Telangana’s total is just over 200.
According to Sudan’s letter, which was accessed by ThePrint, Telangana’s tally of tests-per-million-population was far lower than that of other states, as well as the national average, between 30 April and 6 May.
While the all-India testing average was 1,025 per million population, the figure for Telangana was only 546, she said.
“Further, at all-India level, percentage of positive samples to total tests (positivity rate) is about 4.12 per cent whereas in Telangana, it is 5.26 per cent, which shows that if we carry out RT-PCR testing aggressively, we will be able to identify cases and be able to have better containment by breaking the chain,” Sudan added.
Telangana has 20 laboratories approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to carry out the RT-PCR tests, out of which nine are government facilities and 11 are private.
Sudan has claimed in her letter that the private laboratories are not being used for RT-PCR testing, and the numbers for government labs are low.
“This indicates the capacities of the labs are not utilised optimally,” she said.