Opinion | It is a scandal that India is not doing more tests for COVID 19

The world is in the grip of a raging Pandemic. Every country is taking steps to contain it. Indian Government has also announced the lockdown to stop the spread of the Pandemic, but unfortunately, it is not doing enough tests. Without testing enough people then tracing the contacts of Positive cases and isolating them, the purpose of lockdown will be defeated. We do not know who is carrying the virus and spreading it unknowingly unless we do more tests.

The first country which succeeded in flattening the curve is South Korea which aggressively tested it’s population, traced contacts, isolated the positives. As of 8th April 2020, it was still doing over 9000 tests per million people, and only Hong kong and Singapore are ahead of it in screening the population.

How shameful that India (102 tests per million population) is lagging behind even Pakistan, which is performing 191 analysis per million population despite its economy is in tatters.

There was a sluggish response initially in checking and tracing air travellers from foreign countries. A lack of robust screening measures at airports in the first two weeks of March led many cases to slip and mingle with the population. Some attended religious gatherings; others socialised, attended weddings & funerals.

In most hotspots, a large gathering of people led to a rapid spread of the disease. In Italy, it was a football match, in France a Church gathering and in the US most cases were traced to the attendees of Mardi Gras Carnival in New Orleans. While in Malaysia & India it was after Ijtema (gathering) of Tablighi Jamaat, it was a funeral of a priest of ISKCON (Hare Krishna Movement) in London which led to the discovery of a cluster of cases.

I quote Prof Steve Jamie of John Hopkins University, US. He warns that without enough testing situation in India could spiral into next Italy!! God forbid.

Prof Steve Jamie’ s tweet:
“#India is testing at very low levels, at just 102 tests per 1M pop. #Paskistan is almost dysfunctional, & they are testing more at 191 tests per 1M pop. #Modi’s #Lockdown doesn’t identify who’s ill & who’s healthy. Without testing, India can easily spiral into the next #Italy.”

I also urge the Indian Government to increase the number of tests it is carrying currently as a matter of priority if it wishes to win the fight against COVID 19. Otherwise, we should brace for a terrible few weeks ahead for us.

It is also imperative that we listen to public health advisory and follow the social distancing norms strictly.

Dr Nadeem Jilani, MD, FRCPCH, Medical Director Sidra Medicine Child Advocacy Center. Views are personal.

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