Delhi to double testing centres

The Delhi government on Thursday directed all districts to double the number of Covid-19 testing centres, as part of a move to scale up testing in the city on a day when the Capital added 7,546 new cases of the infection.

“To ensure early detection and subsequent isolation of Covid-19 infected patients, it is felt necessary to enhance the Covid-19 testing capacity. It is therefore directed that all district magistrates will take steps to double the testing centres in all districts immediately,” read the Thursday order by special secretary (health) SM Ali.

The district officials were asked to identify the spots for the additional testing centre within a day and scale up testing in another two, as per the order. The government order has also allowed the district officials to hire people needed to run the new testing centres from the “open market”.

As per the Union health ministry, laboratories under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and it will add 10,000 tests to the city’s total. Another 1,000 will be added by scientific institutions in the city. “Currently, the city does about 57,000 tests a day, of which nearly 20,000 are done using RT PCR tests. Delhi has a capacity of 27,000 tests. This existing capacity will be utilised,” NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul had said on Tuesday.

Delhi also reported 98 deaths due to the infection on Thursday, tipping the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) toll in the city over 8,000. The infection has killed 8,041 persons and affected over 510,000 in the city so far.

The city had reported the highest number of deaths in a day – 131 – on Wednesday. With the daily toll remaining over 90 for eight days in a row the seven-day average case fatality ratio (CFR) – proportion of people who have died among those who test positive – has shot up to 2.78% from just 0.97% ten days ago.

As per the daily health bulletin released by the government, the city conducted the most RT-PCR tests — 22,067 — in a single day on Wednesday, accounting for 35% of all tests conducted.

Even as the city plans to scale up daily testing to between 100,000 and 120,000 a day, the Union health ministry had earlier said there was a need for more of RT-PCR tests, considered the gold standard for Covid-19, so that the proportion did not remain skewed in favour of rapid antigen tests, which are less sensitive and known to throw false negatives for people who might have the infection.

With nearly the normal 62,437 tests, the city reported 7,546 new cases of the infection. The city has been recording fewer than the highest – 8,593 – cases for eight days in a row, three of which are attributable to lower testing during festivals.

State health minister Satyendar Jain had on Monday said that the national capital had crossed the peak of its Covid-19 “third wave”.

“I can assure that the peak of the third wave of cases in November has been crossed. If you look at the daily positivity rate, it had touched 15% and hasn’t reached that level since. It takes about a week for the numbers to go down from the peak,” Jain said, stating that the peak positivity rate during the surge in June had reached a high of 37% and about 14% in September.

The daily positivity rate – the number of samples that test positive among total tested – stood at 12.08%.

Experts had, however, warned that the numbers might go up again after a brief dip during the festive season.

“There was a dip in numbers, but fewer people might have gotten tested during the festivals. We are likely to see the number of cases going up again,” said Dr Vikas Maurya, director, department of pulmonology and sleep disorders at Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. Adding to the worries are the pollution levels that usually go up during winters in Delhi and the temperature dip itself both of which can result in more infections and more severe disease.

Hospitals running out of beds can also lead to an increase in mortality.

“People who are in need of ICU care or oxygen support need it in a timely manner. Also, if we look at Covid-19 cases, most people prefer to stay in home isolation. People also have oxygen saturation monitors at home these days. So, chances are those who reach the hospitals are in need of immediate medical attention. If they do not get it, they are likely to die,” Dr Shobha Broor, former head of the department of virology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), had said. – Hindustan Times

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