New Delhi: Mumbai — a city that has now become the epicentre of the coronavirus crisis in India — has a worryingly high test positivity rate, which indicates the Uddhav Thackeray government is conducting far less tests than what is required, Shekhar Gupta said.
In episode 482 of Cut The Clutter, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta pointed out that with the highest test positivity rate (TPR) in India, Mumbai is among the worst faring cities when it comes to Covid-19.
“Mumbai is in a strange situation. A month back it was ramping up its testing. But for some reason they have reduced the testing,” Gupta said. “I hope those behind the decision realise that testing people is better than hiding figures.”
Mumbai seems to have taken a leaf out of K. Chandrashekhar Rao-led administration in Telangana. Last week, the Modi government had pulled up Telangana for its “lack of proactive testing”.
In a letter dated 7 May, to Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar, Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan had said low testing will not help the state contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Test positivity rates worst for Maharashtra
Maharashtra’s test positivity rate — the number of positive cases for every 100 tests conducted — is about twice as high as that of the rest of the country.
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Both the state and its capital city Mumbai have the highest test positivity rate (TPR) in India.
India’s overall test positivity rate at this point is about 6 per cent. This means that for every 16 or 17 tests conducted, one turns out to be positive.
However, for Maharashtra, the TPR is about 14 per cent — twice as high as the rest of the country. Mumbai, the economic capital of the country, fairs worse, with the TPR as high as 35 per cent.
This is despite the fact that the Maharashtra government has recently started testing a bit more than before. Earlier, the test positivity rate was even higher.
When the state was testing just about 8,700-8,800 per day, their test positivity rate was 26 per cent. Now, with about 15,500 tests daily, the TPR is a little less than 20 per cent, Gupta said.
A high TPR may indicate that only the sicker population is getting tested, and the authorities could be missing out on learning how far the virus has spread in the population.
Mumbai is now India’s epicentre
With over 33,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, Mumbai is really the epicentre of the coronavirus problem right now in India.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Thursday released a colour-coded map of Mumbai, showing 24 wards of the city. As many as 11 wards have more than 1,500 cases each. Of these 11, six have over 2,000 Covid-19 cases.
The Dadar ward, which includes the Dharavi region, has 2,078 cases. This means almost one out of 12 cases in Mumbai comes from this ward.
Byculla, Matunga, Kurla, Khar, Andheri East, Andheri West, Ghatkopar, Chembur are the other worst-affected wards.
The cumulative TPR, which is calculated from the day that testing first started, is about 20 per cent for Mumbai. However, analysis of latest data accessed by ThePrint shows that the current TPR is about 35 per cent.
This means that about one in three tests comes out positive, discounting the fact that some of these tests may be repeat testing, Gupta said. About a week back, the TPR had gone as high as 45 to 48 per cent, after which Mumbai increased its testing.
With increased testing, the number of confirmed cases went up, which in turn brought down the TPR.
However, if you begin to track absolute numbers, it looks like Mumbai has recently started reducing its testing.
Mumbai is in a strange situation. A month back, the city was testing more and ramping up its testing capacity. However, they seem to have reduced testing now.
Perhaps, the focus is no longer on controlling the number of cases, said Gupta. Rather, it is to test those who are symptomatic and save lives by providing treatment to those who are critically ill.
Mumbai not equal to New York
From the economic perspective too, Maharashtra is a very important state. A lot of India’s GDP now sits there, and a lot of India’s foreign investment — foreign institutional investors as well as foreign direct investments — comes through Mumbai.
“So it is very important, even for the central government now, to help the Maharashtra government and Mumbai administration to come to grips with this situation,” said Gupta.
At the same time, don’t throw in the towel. While the city may be the worst-affected in India, it is not what New York City is to US, as some have suggested.
New York City was in a worse situation than Mumbai, not just in terms of positive cases, but also in terms of critical cases and fatalities.
The US city has over 3,71,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 29,000 people have died in the city alone.
In comparison, the data from Maharashtra looks reassuring. Out of about 67,000 positive cases so far in Maharashtra, which amounts to almost a third of all of India’s cases, only about 1,180 are in ICU today. About 229 are on ventilators and 780 are on oxygen support.
“So while the number of cases are very high, our critical cases are not as many,” Gupta says.
Comparison with Delhi
Delhi has conducted more tests than Mumbai. The total tests conducted in the capital city was 1,91,977 as of May 28, with a little over 16,000 confirmed cases. Delhi’s TPR is just about 8.2 per cent, far less than Mumbai’s.
According to the Delhi government data, about 2,118 patients are in hospitals, of which 191 are in ICU and around 32 are on ventilators, as of Thursday.
Though these numbers likely do not include cases in private hospitals, the number of people on ventilators is unlikely to cross over 50.
The percentage of people who are seriously ill and who require hospitalisation is nothing compared to what it was in New York.
The virus loves density
Geographical distribution of the coronavirus infection makes it clear that high population density —which makes social distancing very difficult — promotes the spread of the disease.
Delhi and Mumbai are both dense cities, where social distancing is much tougher. That may explain why the virus will not spread so much in rural areas.
Current scientific understanding suggests that it will not spread that fast in rural areas where more space is available, unlike the cities and slums.
Watch the latest episode of CTC here:
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