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Cases rise but Covid-19 testing slumps in Punjab

CHANDIGARH: Punjab has recorded a notable slump in daily testing done to identify people infected with coronavirus in February, a month during which the state is witnessing a resurgence of the pandemic.

In February so far, 17,771 tests on average a day were conducted, the lowest since August when the daily average was15,170. Before this, Punjab conducted 18,086 tests a day on an average in January, 22,331 in December, 19,079 in November, 23,663 in October and 25,342 in September.

Data of the health department reveals the state crossed the mark of 20,000 tests on seven occasions in the past 21 days, while the figure for testing remained below 15,000 on five days. During this period, the highest testing figure of 21,490 was recorded on February 10 and the lowest of 9,580 on February 2.

Though the state’s overall average of test per million population of 1,56,289 is higher than the national average of 1,53,586, many districts of the state are lagging behind and are testing less than even the national average. The worst performing districts are: Ferozepur, Fazilka, Moga, Muktsar and Faridkot.

In the first three weeks of the month, there has been a substantial rise in weekly cases, making it important for the health authorities to ramp up testing as it is considered as the key measure to control the spread of the virus by identifying infected people early and isolating them.

From February 1 to 7, 1,176 cases were reported. The caseload further swelled to 1,458 during the sevenday period from February 8 to 14, and 1,939 from February 15 to 21.

Taking serious note of the rise in cases, the central government has asked the Punjab government to increase testing with more reliance on RT-PCR tests. Those tested negative by using rapid antigen test are again to be tested using the conventional RT-PCR test, which is considered as a gold standard in the diagnosis of Covid19. Punjab has also been asked to step up surveillance.

The health department held a review meeting and asked the districts to increase testing. Punjab director health services Dr G B Singh said all the required steps were being taken to keep the spread of the virus under control. “Instructions have been issued to districts where testing is below the desirable level. Regular monitoring is being done and necessary actions are being taken,” said Dr G B Singh.

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