As per an assessment of the district health bulletins, Panchkula has sampled about 750 persons for the novel coronavirus per day in the past one week, coming down from sampling an average of 1800 persons per day in the first week of September.
While the district health department had been collecting an approximate 500 samples a day till August, the numbers were increased by more than double entering September to increase the detection of positive cases at a faster pace. The health authorities had then aimed at collecting almost 1,300 samples per day, including 1000 samples for Rapid Antigen Tests and almost 300 for RT-PCR.
The positivity rate of RAT remained between 15-20 per cent in the district, going up to as much as 25 per cent at a time, much higher than RT-PCR tests anywhere.
Even as the detection of cases rose, it was being termed as a direct result of increased testing capacity of the district. Now, as the number of tests have been decreased, the case numbers have also gone down steadily.
On an average, 139 persons tested positive per day in the first week of September when as many as 1,800 samples were collected each day. The number then decreased to 119 positive persons per day when sampling was slashed by more than half at 750 samples a day.
Despite the fact that the sampling numbers were slashed by more than half, the positive cases decreased by only 14 per cent.
The highest number of positive cases averaging to almost 215 per day were reported in the second week of September, while 1100 tests were being conducted per day. The number then decreased to average 171 persons testing positive each day in the third week of September when the district conducted almost 850 tests per day.
“There is a reluctance in people in getting themselves tested. We are now moving towards a mobile unit strategy to increase our sampling numbers again,” said CMO Panchkula, Dr Jasjeet Kaur, when asked about the decrease in testing.
When asked whether the decrease in numbers may be a direct result of decreased sampling, she stated, “Could be. We should know in another two days once the sample size increases again.”
New sampling strategy rolled out
On Monday, the district launched a new sampling strategy. In a meeting held between district health officials, it was decided to mobilise testing units which will reach a spot and test clusters of people.
In the first step taken under the strategy, a letter was sent to the District Education Officer, with directions to get all government school faculties tested.
“We have asked them to mobilise teachers of a single area such as Barwala to a selected location where our sampling team can reach and sample them all,” said Dr Saroj Aggarwal, Deputy Civil Surgeon of Panchkula.
The authorities have also decided to take these mobile units to all housing group societies per day in sectors of MDC, sector 20-21 and Sector 14, to sample high risk people.
Positivity rate down to 13%
The district, early September had decided to move on to antigen sampling in a bid to prevent Covid-19 deaths as it gave quick results. RT-PCR tests were being conducted for all contacts of positive persons among others.
The decrease in positivity rate from 20 per cent to 13 per cent, has led the health department to ramp up tests by RT-PCR under the new sampling strategy.
“Even though the sampling is low and we cannot confidently say that numbers have decreased, the lesser number of people testing positive has given us hope. The drastic decrease in cases has been welcoming. While the positivity rates hat hit as high as 25 percent some days in September, they have only decreased last week,” said Dr Aggarwal.
RAT tests will now be conducted on persons showing severe symptoms or extreme respiratory illnesses.
The numbers of beds occupied in civil hospital have also been slashed by half where only 94 beds remained occupied on Monday, as compared to more than 150 only seven days back.
Persons under home isolation have also gone down from 900 to 700.
Doubling rate at 46.5 days
Doubling rate is the amount of days it will take for the cases to double (current number of positive cases).
While the doubling rate had gone down to as low as 16.3 days in mid-September when more than 4000 cases had been reported, the consistent decrease in number of positive cases has brought a relief to health authorities as the doubling rate soared to its highest at 46.5 days on Monday.
The total cases as on Monday stood at 5,790.
Covid deaths still on rise
Although the number of positive cases has seen a decrease, there has been no respite in the number of Covid-19 related deaths.
Of the total of 85 deaths in the district as yet, 65 have been reported within September itself. As many as 18 people had succumbed to the virus in August while two more passed away in the last week of July.
Further increasing their intensive care capacity, the district hospital of Panchkula added 12 more oxygen/ICU beds to its infrastructure. Almost 142 ICU/ventilator beds already existed in Panchkula’s private as well as government facilities.
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