Telangana has a high COVID-19 positivity rate, and that makes low testing a huge concern

Though the state has been reporting a high number of positive cases, as of June 2 only a little over 31,000 tests have been conducted in total, alarming experts.
Man being tested for SARS-CoV-2
Man being tested for SARS-CoV-2

Despite conducting some of the lowest number of tests in the state, Telangana shows a high percentage of positive cases in the state, highlighting an alarming need to increase testing measures in the state.

As per a recent petition filed with the High Court of Telangana, which has been accessed by TNM, the state had conducted only 31,721 tests as of June 2. Of these, 2,851 samples returned positive, for a positivity rate of 8.98%. When compared to the national testing rates, this strikes concerns. This number is also significantly higher than that of other states, wherein more tests are being conducted but yielding less positive results.

According to data released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as of June 2 there were a total of 3,966,075 tests conducted in the country of which 2,07,615 were found to be positive. This results in a positivity rate at 5.23%.

So what does this mean for Telangana?

“Despite such little testing being done, we can see that there is a significant number of people who are testing positive for the virus. The immediate concern that rises because of this, is how many people would test positive if testing was increased?” explains Dr Kiran Prakash, a professor in the department of Social and Preventive medicine from Kakatiya Medical College in Warangal.

He further goes on to point out that a recent report by the ICMR had also showed that Telangana was reporting some of the highest instances of secondary attack/infection.

Secondary attack rate refers to the number of individuals who have been infected after being exposed to someone who was infected with a particular virus, which in this case is SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.

“That report also brought to light that Telangana’s secondary attack rate was the sixth highest in the country, and the highest among all the states in the south. We have to keep in mind that this only takes into account around only 20 primary contacts of an infected person. If testing were more widespread, the rate may be higher,” he adds.

Earlier, a source from the Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) had told TNM that seeing such a relatively high rate of secondary attacks, even with less testing being done, was the pressing reason that testing had to be increased in the state.

“Even though the number of tests being done is low, we are seeing that the secondary attack rate is high, which is very concerning. It brings into question how many cases we would actually be seeing if testing measures were increased,” the source had said.

How are other states faring when compared to Telangana?

It is also crucial to note that the state government has been called out several times for its lack of transparency pertaining to testing data. In fact, an earlier report by TNM noted that the state had stopped providing testing data after May 17. It also drew attention to how some of its neighboring counterparts were doing.

Around the same time, Andhra Pradesh had increased its testing measures to roughly around 10,000 tests being conducted per day. As of May 15, the state had done 2,01,196 tests of which 2,137 were found to be positive, giving it a positivity rate of 1.1%.

Take Tamil Nadu for instance. As of June 2, the state had done 5,14,433 tests, of which 24,586 were found to be positive. This comes out to a positivity rate of 4.78%. Of the 24,586 people who tested positive, 197 people died, giving a mortality rate of 0.8%.

In comparison the national positivity rate at the time was 5.23%. As of June 2, there were 3,996,075 tests done of which 2,07,615 were found to be positive. Of the total number of people found to be positive, 5,815 succumbed to the disease. This places the nation’s mortality rate from COVID-19 at 2.80%.

“Testing measures must be increased, that is the only way to enable proper analysis of data to better understand how the state is doing and what measures must be taken to ensure that further spread of the virus is contained,” adds Dr Kiran.

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