IN JUST five days since Telangana scaled up testing to around 3,000 a day, the number of positive cases has spiked, leaving health officials alarmed and doctors concerned about rising number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals.
As on June 22, the number of Covid-19 cases in Telangana stood at 8,674, with the last five days alone accounting for 2,999 cases or 34.57 per cent of total cases in the state. Of the cases detected in the last five days, 2,053 were asymptomatic. The balance 946 exhibited SARI-like (Severe Acute Respiratory Illness) symptoms. Since 356 showed only mild symptoms and did not have any comoribidity, they have been advised home isolation. The rest have been admitted to Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad.
The state government had, on June 17, assured the High Court it would ramp up testing, and undertake 50,000 random tests on vulnerable groups in high risk and containment zones in 30 Assembly constituencies in and around Hyderabad. The 50,000 tests were to be conducted over 10 days.
India coronavirus numbers explained| Telangana finally increases testing, surge emerges
But given the sharp spike over the last five days, the state has curtailed testing to under 3,500 a day against the required average of 5,000 daily tests.
G Srinivas, Director, Public Health, attributed the increase in cases to targeted testing. “The testing is going on in containment zones and high-risk zones where previous cases have been reported. Healthcare personnel and vulnerable groups like sanitation workers who are exposed are also being tested,’’ he said.
While the number of positive cases spiked, the fatality continued to be in single digits during the previous five days, adding up to 25. The total number of Covid-19-related deaths in the state stood at 217 as on June 22.
Telangana recorded its first positive case in Hyderabad on March 2. It conducted 22,842 tests till May 14, averaging just about 300 tests a day. From May 14 to June 17, it conducted 23,069 tests, averaging 700 tests a day. In the last five days, June 18-22, the state tested 14,332 people in high-risk and containment zones, of which 2,999 turned positive results. The highest number of positives — 872 — was recorded on June 22.
Public health expert Dr G Ved Prakash said it was too little, too late. “The government should have increased testing long ago. Even now, it is not enough. The spike in cases shows how fast it has spread already,’’ he said. Dr Prakash is a member of Doctor for Sewa, an organisation of public health specialists, which had red-flagged low testing in Telangana in the first week of April.
Dr Suneetha N, a specialist on infectious diseases at Apollo Hospitals, said this had started putting pressure on hospitals now. “The problem should have been acknowledged much earlier. By the time you realise it, it is out of control. The hospitals are filling up with sick people,’’ she said.
Telangana had conducted 45,911 Coronavirus tests till June 17, one of the lowest in the country. Nudged by the High Court to ramp up testing and make the figures public, the state started conducting more than 1,000 tests. Dr Ved Prakash said the huge increase in cases meant the state would not be able to do contact tracing anymore. “Health workers and police are already overwhelmed with work and they cannot handle more. So, apart from random testing, officials will only know when people with symptoms walk into hospitals. Apart from keeping oneself safe by taking precautions, there is nothing much that can be done now,” he said.
The state government, however, said it was on top of the situation. Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender said the number of tests done daily is adequate since these were being done in areas identified as Covid hotspots.
“We are doing tests in and around containment zones and in areas where positive cases were detected earlier and they recovered. Apart from that, we are conducting tests on medical professionals and healthcare workers. Compared to other states, the spread of virus in Telangana is less. We have total control over the Coronavirus situation in the state,’’ Rajender said.
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