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How do we know that India is doing adequate testing for COVID-19?: Dr. Purvish Parikh

M3 India Newsdesk Jun 24, 2020

Using data, Dr. Purvish Parikh compares testing rates and prevalence of COVID-19 for India with other countries with the highest number of cases to prove that India is doing much better than some of the developed nations in the world.

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While the world battles, COVID-19 continues unabated with almost 8 million cases worldwide (7,996,880 as on 15th June 2020), it has already taken the lives of 4,35,666 unfortunate people. And there is a buzz that India is now amongst the top four, just behind USA, Brazil, and Russia.

So, there is a lot of criticism about how India has tackled the COVID-19 pandemic. We hear many statements against the policy and measures taken by the government. People keep comparing with other countries while being critical of India. There is also a lot of skepticism about the official statistics and numbers - especially about us doing inadequate testing.

To put to rest the unnecessary controversy generated about COVID-19 testing, we bring to you hard facts. These facts are taken from a single international non-government source that has been providing real time facts and figures across 215 countries. We have then put these figures in the correct perspective to give you a clear understanding.

Table 1 compares the  top 4 countries - USA, Brazil, Russia and India. In order to not compare apples with oranges, we have added columns to show the number of cases per million of each country's population as well as number of deaths per million of population (along with the world rank for these parameters).

As can be clearly seen, India's rank is 132/215 as far as cases per million of population is concerned and it ranks 107th as far as deaths per million of population is concerned. These are very encouraging figures and indicate that India is on the right path to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is when skeptics step in and raise the bogey of inadequate testing. We therefore decided to compare the testing for COVID-19 in the top 15 countries (Table 2). Here again absolute number of COVID tests do not give the correct picture. So we have looked at the ratio of positive tests to the total number of tests performed. If this figure is low, it indicates that testing is high.

Here Russia is doing very well with 3.54 % tests seen as being positive. India's global rank here is 5th, with 5.77% of the tests found to be positive. Clearly, India is doing much better than some of the western/developed countries like Spain (rank 6th), USA (rank 8th), and France (Rank 9th).

We surely hope that this will silence all the critics that question the adequacy of steps taken by India in this battle against COVID-19 and demonstrate to them that testing for COVID-19 in India is much better than the majority of the top 15 countries.

The final question- How will India be able to get out of the COVID-19 clutches?

Let us take the example of Maharashtra, which is responsible for about half of India's score. The state had done the job of flattening incidence of new cases between 22nd May and 9th June - with the numbers ranging between 2,091 and 3,007. Unfortunately with the relaxation of lockdown measures, new cases have increased, now ranging from 3,254 to 3,607.

This is a reflection of increasing mobility coupled with use of public transport without social distancing. Trains and buses were crammed with people going back to work - some of them very casual about precautions needed (especially wearing masks).

A very important lesson us doctors need to convey to everyone around is that the war is far away from being over, the unseen enemy is still all around us and any relaxation in the social distancing measures is highly detrimental. Any failure to strictly follow notified guidelines will further delay the "flattening-the-curve" and as well as push back the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all in this together and we need to continue fighting it together.

Reference: Worldometer. Available from: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/.[Accessed 15th June 2020]


Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of M3 India.

The author, Dr. Purvish Parikh is the Group Oncology Director & Professor of Medical Oncology at Shalby Cancer & Research Institute, Ahmedabad.

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