For the first time in over three months, only 7.9 per cent of those tested in Mumbai in a day were found to be Covid-19 positive.
Mumbai on Tuesday saw 8,776 people being tested, the highest number of tests conducted in the city in a single day so far. Of these, only 700 – 7.9 per cent of those who were tested – were found to be infected.
“Mumbai’s doubling rate (of cases) is now 68 days,” BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said. The city on Tuesday recorded 55 deaths due to Covid-19, taking its toll to 6,187. The total number of cases climbed to 1.10 lakh.
The widening gap in the number of tests conducted and positive cases can be attributed to several factors.
Senior BMC officials have pointed to a slower viral transmission pattern in the community. The liberalisation of the testing policy has also led to a dip in the positivity rates. Since July 3, BMC has allowed everyone to get tested without a doctor’s prescription, encouraging “testing at will”. With the scope of testing now broadened from targeted testing of symptomatic and high-risk contacts to the general population, experts believe the percentage of those testing positive has reduced.
A state health official, however, pointed out that 60 to 70 per cent of the tests conducted on Tuesday in Mumbai were antigen tests, which are known for less specificity and high sensitivity – meaning antigen tests may miss a positive case and diagnose it as negative. More antigen tests and less RT-PCR tests could also explain why positivity rate is dipping in the city.
On Tuesday, Worli MLA Aaditya Thackeray tweeted: “Mumbai will see more testing with chase the virus initiative of BMC. It is also the only city to have liberalised testing and allowed citizens to ‘test at will’.” He added that the ‘chase the virus’ policy is being implemented in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, after noting the outcomes in Mumbai.
Data of BMC testing numbers shows as on July 1, of the 6,044 samples examined, 1,554 people (25.7 per cent) tested positive. The positivity rate fell to 22.1 per cent on July 10, and further down to 20.6 per cent on July 20. On July 25, it stood at 13.1 per cent. Overall, Mumbai’s positivity rate stands at 22.4 per cent now.
In Sion hospital laboratory, officials said that in April and May, their lab would find 60 to 70 per cent of samples testing positive, which has slowly reduced to 30 to 40 per cent by June.
BMC Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said high-risk population was moved to quarantine centres to break the viral chain.
“This has yielded results. Our strategy in slums, where the transmission was high, specially in Worli and Dharavi, was to isolate high-risk people. Measures like hand hygiene and masks have also slowed transmission,” he added. Following the sero survey results of BMC, research scientist Dr Gagandeep Kang said, “At 57 per cent, we are close to herd immunity. Cases in Mumbai slums might have dipped because most people in crowded localities were already infected.”
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