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As infection spreads to newer areas, UT testing strategy remains unchanged

Since Sunday, cases have been detected in Sector 41 as well as Daria village, both areas which had no Covid-19 patients until now.

Written by Chahat Rana | Chandigarh | Published: June 10, 2020 11:21:45 am
chandigarh corona, chandigarh covid test, corona new areas chandigarh Since Sunday, cases have been detected in Sector 41 as well as Daria village, both areas which had no Covid-19 patients until now. Express photo by Jaipal Singh. (Representational)

Even as the number of Covid-19 cases continue to increase every day, with residents from sectors and colonies outside hotspots testing positive for the virus, the UT’s testing strategy remains unchanged and surveillance efforts remain limited. The city’s tally reached 320 on Monday, with 30 active cases.

Since Sunday, cases have been detected in Sector 41 as well as Daria village, both areas which had no Covid-19 patients until now. Apart from the new patients from Bapu Dham colony, two new patients, a couple, have also been reported from Manimajra, one patient from Sector 21, and another from Sector 16.

Despite evidence of the disease being prevalent in sectors across the city, a health department official claimed that they will continue to test while strictly abiding by the “central government guidelines.”

No random testing in UT

With a positivity rate of seven per cent, and 270 Covid-19 cases per million- 77 more than the national average of 193 cases per million- Chandigarh has a significantly high concentration of patients in proportion to its population.
Yet, from the very beginning, the UT administration has refused to conduct surveillance using random sampling — a strategy which has been useful for detecting patients in Panchkula and Mohali.

“We are strictly following the ICMR protocol for testing. No random sampling,” said Arun Kumar Gupta, Health-cum-Home Secretary for UT.

As for pool testing, where five samples can be tested together using the RT PCR machine, allowing for conserving testing resources, the UT is currently only conducting a limited number of such tests on foreign returnees as per the ICMR guidelines.

Pool testing can also be a useful surveillance tool in hotspots and was initially used for testing residents from Bapu Dham Colony at GMCH 32, after which they continuously decreased the number of pool tests.

“Testing shouldn’t lax” says epidemiologist

A Delhi based epidemiologist told The Indian Express that states and UTs should not curb testing and surveillance just because the lockdown has been lifted.

“Cases will continue to rise and the threat of the disease remains the same, so of course community surveillance and testing should continue per usual, and even increase considering that people can now go anywhere,” said the epidemiologist.

The doctor added that limiting testing to hotspots indicates a confirmatory bias in the administration. “You will find more cases in a hotspot because you already know it’s a hotspot and believe that it will have all the cases so your resources should not be focused there but also on surveillance outside the hotspot, where there can be so many asymptomatic carriers,” said the epidemiologist.

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