Updated: May 17, 2021 7:27:21 am
Even as Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa attributed the drop in fresh Covid cases to the success of lockdown in Karnataka, the drop in number of tests is hard to miss.
While Karnataka reported 50,112 fresh infections on May 5, the number had dropped to 35,297 on May 13. However, a closer look at the health bulletins shared by the Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Department indicate that the total number of samples tested has also seen a visible drop during the last fortnight.
For instance, while 1,77,982 samples were tested on May 1, the number dropped to 1,18,345 on May 15. Even the test positivity rate (TPR) on these days indicates that Karnataka is yet to witness any flattening of the curve. The TPR on May 1, as per the bulletin, was 23.03 per cent while it rose to 35.20 per cent on May 15.
According to Dr K R Antony, a public health consultant who has served with UNICEF, a similar pattern has been noted in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “Bringing down the number of tests, especially those tested by Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method is not the right way to indicate a drop in cases. To confirm flattening of the curve, a drop in the number of daily cases should be observed even while the daily number of RT-PCR tests are sustained at a certain level. However, Karnataka numbers indicate otherwise,” he told Indianexpress.com.
Also an independent monitor for the National Health Mission, he said, “Truth and transparency matters a lot and this would bring more faith among the public to cooperate and live to complement the system. Misinterpreting data to make political gains is definitely not the right way to combat the pandemic.”
However, Home and Law Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the drop in testing numbers was due to the lockdown. “We have been testing all primary and secondary contacts of Covid-19 patients compulsorily. The fall in RT-PCR numbers have come down as testing at public places including railway stations and bus stands have stopped due to the (ongoing) lockdown,” he said.
A member from the state’s Covid-19 technical advisory committee recommended extending restrictions beyond May 24. “The restrictions might have brought down the intensity of the infections but the real effect is yet to take form. Testing should be increased while contact tracing is not compromised in any manner,” an expert from the committee said, stressing the importance of providing faster results from laboratories, both government-run and private.
Meanwhile, state Congress chief D K Shivakumar alleged that the government had asked hospitals to “cut down testing by 50 per cent.” He remarked, “It is wrong to reduce the number of tests just to show fewer cases. With more testing comes more public awareness. The government’s action to reduce testing even while the ICMR recommends otherwise is wrong. This amounts to the government itself killing the citizens.”
Meanwhile, Covid-19 infections in the state have remained in the 40,000 range for several weeks now despite the numbers in Bengaluru, which remains the worst-hit, dipping from the 20,000 range to around 15,000 in recent days — suggesting that the virus is spreading in other districts of the state.
The state has reported over 11.33 lakh cases and 8,850 deaths since April 1 this year alone.
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