Cases on rise, J&K COVID-19 testing lacks pace

Testing must ramp up to identify chain of infection: Docs
Irfan Tramboo
Srinagar, Mar 27: While the number of COVID-19 positive cases is going up almost every day now, Jammu and Kashmir has carried out a miniscule number of testing for COVID-19 ever since the case of the infection started reported here.
As per data which is being issued by the Government on regular basis, there has been a constant regular increase in the number of people enlisted for observation, those put in hospital quarantine and those in home quarantine. However, the number of tests being carried has witnessed a minimal increase over the period of time.
As of now a total of 4.6 per cent of people have been tested out of those who are under observation, home quarantine and hospital quarantine.
Going back, on March 9, the Government issued data regarding the situation emerging after the COVID-19 cases were being reported in the country. On that very day, there were 669 persons under observation, 460 persons were under home quarantine and 8 persons were under hospital quarantine. The number of tests that were carried out at that particular point was 55.
With regard to the latest numbers of March 26, there has been a surge in the number of persons put under observation as well as those in home quarantine, hospital quarantine, or surveillance.
Currently, there are 5763 persons under observation, 3136 persons under home quarantine, 169 under hospital quarantine across J&K, and the number of tests carried is just 423.
While there has been a visible and noticeable change in the other parameters since March 9, the parameter of testing has not witnessed the proportional increase till now.
The doctors are of the opinion that by not resorting to aggressive testing, the actual number of positives in the community is not known.
“It is not specific to Kashmir but to whole of India. We just don’t know the denominator which messes up all the numbers. We don’t know how many positives we have in the community,” Dr Parvaiz Kaul, Head of the Department of Medicine, SKIMS told Excelsior.
He added that: “I time and again said that India has to scale up its testing to know the magnitude of the disease in its asymptomatic phase.”
As per World Health Organization, testing is crucial for an appropriate response to the pandemic as it allows to understand the spread of the disease and to take evidence-based measures to slow down the spread of the disease. WHO has been impressing upon the need for aggressive testing.
Dr Iqbal Saleem Mir, a senior doctor at Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar told Excelsior that the testing is must to identify the chain of infection and it has to be ramped up.
He said that “we have come to the second step after lockdown”. “…the testing rate, which is too low right now, it has to be ramped up. Once we test, the number of positives will increase, but we will be doing by that is that we will be getting to the chain of the infection.”
He added that lockdown alone was not going to help in breaking the chain. “We have to find that chain and we will have to break it-which will happen with the help of more and more testing-we will be able to prevent the infection from further spread.”
Another doctor, who wished anonymity said that the cases in our community are likely to be many more than we think. “We test only a few. India needs to scale up the testing,” he said.