As West Bengal added another record 1,344 to its Covid caseload on Saturday — third straight day of 1,000-plus new cases, there is a growing worry about the rising test-positivity ratio, which has been surging in the last 11 days.
This has led to the concerns about community transmission — the stage when there is no clear source of origin of infection in a community.
“We are very much worried about the infection rate. It is indeed a positive thing that in these 10 days the fatality rate has been less than 3%, but if the rate of infection continues to increase like this, it will explode in middle or last week of July, and surely we will be in community transmission,” said a senior official of the state Department of Health.
The the overall positivity rate, which has been climbing steadily since May 28, was 4.7 per cent on Saturday. This month it has been 8.43 per cent. The increase in infection is apparent from the rise in daily positivity rate. It was 6.39 per cent at the start of the month, and 11.79 per cent on Saturday — an upswing of 5.4 percentage points.
In comparison, the overall national positivity rate was about 7.49 per cent on Saturday.
The rise in the test-positivity ratio is also due to the fact that the government has not ramped up testing. The daily average Covid testing in the state has been hovering around 10,000-plus even as the cases are rising at a very high rate.
The highest daily sample testing was recorded on Saturday at 11,403. It has remained more or less in the same range for the last 10 days (See graph).
As per the health department bulletin, the cumulative number of samples tested is 6,05,370.
In the last 11 days, the tests per million figure in West Bengal increased from 5,529 to 6,726.
Meanwhile, the cumulative Covid count on Saturday stood at 28,452, while the fatalities at 906. On Saturday, 26 deaths were reported.
The state has added 9,894 infections to its caseload in 11 days, and reported 238 fatalities.
A disproportionate number of these deaths and infections have been reported from Kolkata, its adjoining districts North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Howrah, and Hooghly. All 26 deaths on Saturday occurred in the capital city and its three neighbouring districts.
The situation continued to remain grim in Darjeeling, where 72 infections were detected, pushing up its active caseload to close to 300. In Malda, the other North Bengal district that along with Darjeeling has contributed to a bulk of the infections in the region till date, 45 cases were detected. The infection also picked up in Jalpaiguri, where 46 new Covid-19 patients were found. This month it has recorded 155 infections. The only solace in the region was provided by Kalimpong, where the active caseload dropped to one. It has not reported a case since July 3.
In another worrying sign for the authorities, the recovery rate has stalled. It has declined every day over the last seven days, and on Saturday it was 63.11 per cent.
Leading Kolkata-based virologist Suman Poddar said, “Now, not only doctors or nurses, everybody in the state is a frontline worker in terms of Covid. Everybody is going out of their home to earn money, which has obviously increased the possibility of infection rate rising. It started increasing from the first week of June, and we are seeing the results now. Now, the only way to restrict infection is individual awareness. Every individual should be alert on their own to stop the infection.”
According to the health bulletin, in which figures are updated till 9 am, a record 611 people were discharged from hospitals on Saturday, taking the total number of recovered patients to 17,959.
The government said 8,933 migrant returnees and 4,805 other people were still in government quarantine, and 32,460 people were in home isolation. There were 239 people in safe homes, the government added.
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