On Saturday, when the Covid-19 tally in Gujarat crossed 70,000 after more than 1,100 fresh cases were reported, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced that the testing will be increased to 30,000 tests per day from Sunday onwards in an attempt to arrest further spread of the virus. The total cases in Surat, on the other hand, crossed 15,000 on Saturday.
Addressing a press conference in Jamnagar where the tally crossed 1,000 after reporting 54 new cases on Saturday, Rupani said, “There was a time when 4,000 to 5,000 (tests) were being conducted every day. Yesterday, we conducted 26,000 tests. Of course, we have been increasing this progressively for the past many days. But I have instructed that from tomorrow onwards, 30,000 tests should be conducted every day. The World Health Organisation guidelines for the entire world is 140 tests per million per day. Today, we have reached more than 500 tests per million. So, we are testing sufficiently… The increasing number of cases is not a matter of very high concern. But we want to increase testing so that those who have contracted the virus can be identified and thereby further spread of the virus can be prevented,” Rupani said.
The CM said that during the review meeting in Jamnagar, he instructed local officers to increase the number of tests to 1,000 samples per day in Jamnagar city and Jamnagar rural from tomorrow onward. Jamnagar has been testing between 200 and 500 samples each day in August, except on Friday when it tested 700 samples. The district has added 330 cases in a week.
While the Indian Council of Medical Research has continuously emphasised on RT-PCR being the gold-standard for testing, it also noted that states have been using private laboratories sub-optimally, including Gujarat. Gujarat has primarily focused on increasing antigen tests.
The ICMR guidelines also stipulate that “wherever available, it is advised to use real time RT-PCR as the frontline test for diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2.”
The antigen tests, according to ICMR, have “relatively moderate sensitivity but high specificity,” thus resulting in false negatives. The ICMR suggests antigen testing deployment in hospitals, labs and containment zones.
The daily testing numbers do not reflect the bifurcation of antigen tests vis-a-vis RT-PCR tests.
Earlier in the day, Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and top government officers visited Bhavnagar to take stock of the pandemic situation. Bhavnagar, which has now reported nearly 1,800 cases, 400 of them reported in the past week, is among the worst-affected districts in Saurashtra, along with Rajkot and Jamnagar, in terms of total number of confirmed cases.
Rajkot has been reporting more than 90 cases each day during the last week with the district tally crossing 3,200.
Rupani said that while the state government was making all-out efforts to contain the spread of the virus, “prevention is the best cure”.
Interacting with journalists in Bhavnagar, Rupani said that Gujarat accounts for 55 per cent of total vials of tocilizumab injections imported in India and that the state government is making these injections available, each costing Rs 40,000, to people of the state.
He said that Ahmedabad and Surat were still the districts with high incidence of coronavirus.
“In order to prevent further spread of the virus, we have also instructed to do screening of people coming from Jamnagar to Ahmedabad at entry points and test them for Covid-19 if required,” Rupani said while addressing the press conference in Jamnagar.
The Gujarat High Court too, earlier this week, had instructed the state and Ahmedabad officials to restrict entry of outsiders, especially from Surat, to Ahmedabad.