The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan Tuesday said that India has a low testing rate as compared to some of the countries such as Germany, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan that have done well in this regard, PTI reported. In an interactive session through video conference, Swaminathan noted that while lockdowns are a temporary measure to check the spread of coronavirus, “the idea is to buy time for the government to put in place the system needed to tackle the virus,” she was quoted as saying by PTI.
“India as a whole, the testing rates are much lower compared to some of the countries, who have done well like Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan,” she said, adding without adequate testing, fighting the virus is like “fighting fire blindfolded”.
Swaminathan said the number of tests being conducted is not adequate if the Covid-19 test positivity rate is above five per cent. According to Health Ministry statistics, India’s positivity rate stands at 8.89 per cent.
“Even the United States is testing a huge number of people. So we need to have some benchmark and every public health department needs to have benchmarks on what is the rate of testing per lakh or per million, what is the test positivity rate,” she was quoted as saying by PTI.
Swaminathan also stressed on the need for governments to constantly monitor the availability of beds, quarantine facilities, ICUs and oxygen supplies in district hospitals. “So there is a set of 8 to 10 indicators that the government needs to keep a close watch on. And you can ramp up or ramp down based on what you are seeing on the ground,” she said.
Speaking about the ongoing vaccine trials, Swaminathan said the WHO has issued guidelines on it and if the efficacy rate of the vaccine is 70 per cent, then it is considered to be a good one.
On the COVAX facility, Swaminathan said by the end of 2021 it is aimed to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification.
(With inputs from PTI)
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