Covid-19 Testing: These Six States Emerge As The Worst Performers

by Arihant Pawariya - Jun 10, 2020 05:59 PM +05:30 IST
Covid-19 Testing: These Six  States Emerge As The Worst PerformersNew Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal 
  • Some states are testing for Covid-19 in sufficient numbers. Some are doing really badly.

    Here is our analysis of 12 states with most number of positive cases in the country.

Doing a sufficient number of RT-PCR tests daily is one of the important methods of combating Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More testing leads to the identification of positive cases early on which can be not only given timely medical attention but also quarantined so that the transmission of the virus can be reduced.

On top of it all, if a government does a lot of testing, there is a good chance that its data on the actual spread of disease, mortality rate, the transmission rate of the virus, etc is closer to reality. And that can help common people make better decisions after doing risk analysis. The chances of panicking are also reduced.

Essentially, testing is a very important weapon in the fight against Covid-19. However, looking at national numbers on tests, cases, deaths, etc is not really helpful because a few states or districts usually contribute the majority of the case load in a country. So, analysing state-level data gives a better picture.

How are India’s states doing on the testing front? Here is data on 12 states in the country which have the highest number of Covid-19 cases (each having more than 5,000 cases at least).

For all the states, the positivity rate (number of positive cases detected per 100 tests) has been calculated. It’s an important metric in understanding the gravity of the Covid-19 spread in an area. A higher positivity rate in an area is a signal that the virus has spread in a large population and testing needs to be ramped up accordingly.

In the table below, states are sorted in ascending order of their positivity rates.

Covid-19 Testing: These Six  States Emerge As The Worst Performers

As one can see, five states have a positivity rate of more than five per cent - Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Maharashtra - one state is ruled by BJP, one by NDA, one by UPA and two by regional parties.

In the top 5, two are BJP ruled, one Congress and two are controlled by regional parties. Whatever way one looks at it, no party or party-type (regional/national) are the clear winners. How the states have fared depended mostly on the competence of the ruling Chief Minister and not the party.

Be that as it may, from the above figures, it appears that three states really need to greatly increase testing in their jurisdiction - Gujarat, Delhi and Maharashtra. Their positivity rate is alarmingly high and most likely they are missing out on a lot of positive patients which would make their fight against Covid-19 more difficult and citizens in these areas will be under more panic (less cases detected means higher mortality and thus more panic) therefore delaying the restarting of economic activity.

However, the above table shows total figures of tests and cases from the start of the pandemic. I thought there is a possibility that overall positivity rate in some states may be coming up as good as they tested in good numbers initially but have not kept up as the cases have increased rapidly in recent days.

To get a more updated picture, I looked at the data of the last 10 days and it tells a slightly different and more worrying story:

Covid-19 Testing: These Six  States Emerge As The Worst Performers

As one can see from the above table, the overall positivity rate in Delhi may be 12.5 per cent but in the last 10 days, it’s climbed to 23.5 per cent. This shows that as the disease has spread more widely, the Delhi government has not increased the testing. It’s still doing tests in the range of 3-5,000 tests a day. Local dailies have even published reports about the government suppressing actual death numbers.

This makes political sense because the Kejriwal government wouldn’t want to be on the top in the country in mortality rate by showing the true picture of deaths while it’s not detecting true positive patients by doing enough testing. Had it done so, there won’t be any need to suppress the death figures.

Maharashtra stands behind every other state in the country as far as testing is concerned. Its positivity rate was the worst of all. Now, Delhi has snatched its title of being the worst performer but the positivity rate has worsened from earlier 15 per cent to over 19 per cent. Tamil Nadu, which has done the most number of tests than any other state in the country is also slipping. Overall figures show rate of 5.6 per cent but the data of last 10 days show that it has jumped to 9.6 per cent.

But one the biggest takeaways from these two tables is how quickly the situation is worsening in Haryana. In tables 1 and 2, four states are the same but Haryana has jumped from seventh position to fourth. More importantly, the positivity rate in the state has increased from 3.38 per cent (overall) to 8.46 per cent (last 10 days). If the state government doesn’t rapidly increase testing, Haryana will soon find itself standing with Maharashtra and Delhi.

Another interesting thing to note from the two tables is that there are only two states whose overall positivity rate is worse than the rate in the last 10 days meaning that their testing has improved compared to the positives detected. These are Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.
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