Senior Madhya Pradesh officials have admitted that COVID 19 testing capacities in Indore were not “what it should have been”, and that it was likely that there were “undetected cases” much before March 24 when the first case was detected.
The officials said there were “initial setbacks”, but the state has since taken steps to ramp up testing and is now in a good position to tackle the number of cases. They added that there were at least 40 cases where “100 per cent contact tracing” has not been possible, indicative of possible local community transmission.
Additional Chief Secretary Mohammad Suleman, who has been given charge of the Health Department, told reporters over video-conference on Saturday, “It is a fact that our testing capacity was way lower than what it had to be. We have a backlog. We are trying to run three shifts in the labs and have given additional machines. Delay in testing does result in some kind of uncertainty. But we are ensuring that those whose test results are pending are either in home isolation or institutional quarantine.”
He added, “Initially our testing and sampling capacity was very low. In March, we tested 150 samples per day in two labs. Now we are testing over 1,200 samples per day. By the end of the month our target is 2,000, and 5,000 by May. We have ramped up sample collection. In Indore alone we have collected 5,000 samples. We are ensuring that all suspected people in quarantine facilities are tested on priority. Additionally, 2,000 teams are doing surveillance to identify high-risk patients.”
The Additional Chief Secretary said that while Indore’s first case was identified on March 24, the numbers since then — close to 900 now — show that it is probable that there were cases that went undetected earlier.
“The growth has been very fast, and no mathematical modelling can explain this. Therefore, while nobody can say for certain, it does seem like there were cases before the first one was detected,” he said.
Dr Lokendra Dave, a health official from the state government, said the high mortality rates in the initial stages of cases emerging in Indore showed that patients were turning up late for treatment, and that they had comorbidities.
Suleman added that for those that have died, the average hospital stay was three and a half days, indicating that most came to hospital with little time left for treatment.
“Now we are also admitting suspected cases in hospitals so that we can monitor them more efficiently,” he said.
The senior officials also expressed confidence that there was sufficient health infrastructure, and even in Indore, not close to a crisis point. The officials said that ramping up of medical infrastructure in the last month has meant that in Indore 19 per cent isolation beds are being used as opposed to the state average of 28 per cent.