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Assam sees higher Covid positivity, officials cite change in testing plan

Browsing through daily testing figures, it is evident that on an average, the number of samples being tested daily in August was higher than in September.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati | September 23, 2020 7:36:15 am
Assam, Assam news, Assam Covid 19 update, Assam coronavirus cases, Indian ExpressSchools reopen in Guwahati on September 21, 2020. (Reuters Photo: David Talukdar)

Assam has seen an increase in positivity rate during Covid-19 testing this month as compared to August despite testing fewer samples, official data shows. Officials, however, attribute the trend to a change in testing strategy.

In August, Assam had a positivity rate of around 4.8 per cent and in September so far, the positivity rate is approximately 6.7 per cent, a senior official said. In August, over 13 lakh samples were tested and in September, nearly seven lakh have been tested till now, as per the daily state Covid updates.

Browsing through daily testing figures, it is evident that on an average, the number of samples being tested daily in August was higher than in September.

For instance, on August 14, 49,603 samples were tested and the positivity rate was 5.45 per cent; on August 17, it was 5.63 per cent for 49,510 samples tested; and on August 19, it was 5.23 per cent for 40,389 samples.

Comparatively, on September 16, the positivity was 7.37 per cent for 32,478 samples tested and on September 18, it was 6.96 per cent for 36,027 samples; and on September 19, for 35,175 samples tested, the positivity rate was 7.38 per cent.

Lakshmanan S, Assam’s Mission Director of the National Health Mission, explained that the state is now conducting more “targeted” tests — for instance, on symptomatic patients and contacts — so the number of tests is comparatively less but positivity higher.

“There is a difference in testing strategy now. If we test randomly, that will increase the total number of tests and keep the positivity rate lower. In that case, you are basically testing asymptomatic people in large numbers and concluding that they are indeed negative,” he said.

“However, what we are doing currently is improving the equality of testing. We are testing people who have a high probability of being positive — symptomatic people and contacts of positive patients. (We are seeing a high positivity rate amongst people who are coming to hospitals with some symptoms.) That way the number of tests is comparatively low but the positivity rate is higher,” Lakshmanan said.

“Now our goal is to increase this kind of improved targeting testing to one lakh tests a day. Groundwork is on — and we are hopeful that by the end of this month, we should be able to conduct almost one lakh tests a day in a targeted manner,” he added.

Lakshmanan said that he would appeal to all symptomatic people in the state to come forward and get tested. “And we will effectively trace their contacts and test them,” he said.

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