With Karnataka clearing the ground for unrestricted travel in the state after five months of restrictions due to Covid-19, two expert committees that have been advising the government on the pandemic have recommended an increase in testing in order to flatten the positivity rate and to ensure that the disease control efforts remain effective.
“Karnataka is second in terms of high test positivity rate at 12 per cent. Instead of targets for testing, the joint expert committee advises the government of Karnataka to strengthen testing of all the symptomatic persons through rigorous tracing and tracking strategy. In addition, we advise that testing should be prioritised among vulnerable populations and high-risk groups for initiating early treatment and minimising progression to severe disease,” the technical advisory committee headed by retired community health expert Dr M K Sudarshan and a clinical expert committee headed by Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences vice chancellor Prof S Sachidanand stated.
Efficient testing and control measures have been the key to countries like South Korea, Germany and New Zealand flattening the Covid-19 growth curve, with Germany testing over 1.2 lakh persons per million, the experts said.
As of August 23, Karnataka had tested 34,659 persons per million, compared to Delhi’s 70,871 tests per million and Andhra Pradesh’s 61,672 tests per million.
“Successful countries employed widespread testing to flatten the curve. Government of India and WHO recommend that test positivity rate should be within 5 per cent. The coronavirus transmission is spreading to tier-2 cities and rural areas and we need to gradually ramp up testing significantly to as high as 75,000-1,00,000 tests per million population,” the two expert committees have stated.
“For any public health programme to be successful, operational targets need to be fixed. However, these targets shall be realistic and meaningful. There is a need to assess available resources and fix targets that are practical and achievable. If this is not followed, there are bound to be setbacks,” the expert committees told the Karnataka government. “To achieve the target, it is essential to ramp up resources in terms of manpower, equipment, training, transport, etc.”
The two committees have also told the Karnataka government that there is a need to dispel misconceptions that have crept into the minds of people regarding testing and treatment of Covid-19.
“Presently, in certain sections of society, there is a fear to undergo Covid-19 testing for various reasons. To ramp up testing, it is very important that the government engages the media to alleviate fears, reassure people and encourage them to undergo testing. All efforts shall be made by the local health authorities by taking testing to the door-steps of the people,” the committees said.
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