Despite a positivity rate of 6.7 per cent for COVID-19 in the UT, almost 3 per cent more than the national average of 3.8 per cent, the administration has no plans to conduct random sampling in different parts of the city. In comparison, the neighbouring city of Panchkula, which has a positivity rate of 0.8 per cent, screening and random testing was conducted aggressively right at the onset of the pandemic in the region.
“We test as per GOI guidelines. We screen affected pockets which have a concentrated number of cases and test symptomatic patients, but we are not conducting random testing,” says UT Health Secretary Arun Kumar Gupta.
Although the number of cases ratcheted up from 27 to 115 in the past two weeks, aggressive door-to-door screening and testing is limited to traced contacts of positive patients and the containment zones of Bapu Dham Colony and Sector 30-B in the UT. In the neighbouring Panchkula, however, which is often colloquially touted as Chandigarh’s ‘poorer cousin’, at least 500 more people have been tested despite having a much smaller population of over 6 lakh people and only 18 diagnosed COVID-19 cases, out of which all except have recovered.
Dr K K Talwar, the former director of PGIMER, maintains that though a lack of resources can affect testing rates. “Outside the containment zones, at least vulnerable populations such as the aged or those with co-morbidities should be tested,” Dr Talwar says.
The former director of PGI, who is now part of an expert group in Punjab tasked with auditing COVID-19 related deaths, adds that if resources for testing are limited, pool tests can be conducted in sectors to check the extent of COVID-19 spread.
As for resources at the UT’s disposal, beyond PGI and GMCH-32’s combined capacity of conducting 300 tests a day, IMTECH is equipped to test up to 700 samples now. Panjab University and IISER are also equipped to test at least 100 samples each. Potentially, the UT can have a testing capacity of 1,200 tests a day.
In contrast, Panchkula, relying on PGI and IMTECH for testing, began screening slums and villages after a case was identified in Kharak Mangoli slum. Not only was the slum with over 9,000 people sealed immediately, but slum dwellers were also screened, tested and counselled.
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