Coronavirus: India conducts 1,423,052 tests in a day; positivity rate 6.1%

A health worker collects swab sample for Covid-19 rapid antigen testing, at Community Centre, Bhim Nagar, in Gurugram.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases globally reached 34,159,060 on Thursday, according to Worldometer. However, this number represents only the status of infection as captured through testing, as only lab-confirmed infections are counted as confirmed cases. This implies the true extent of the coronavirus pandemic’s spread could only be gauged by testing a lot.

In the words of World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world needs to "Test, test, test. Test every suspected case". The WHO chief had suggested on March 16 that testing was the only way to understand the extent of the problem and find a solution. "You cannot fight a fire blindfolded," he had said.

Today, we know that the US, with over 7.4 million cases, is the most affected country. But it is also the country that has conducted most number of tests after China, where the virus was first reported. The US has so far conducted 107,536,225 tests in total, or 324,403 tests per 1 million tests in total. By comparison, India, which has a population over four times as big as the US’, has conducted 75,619,781 tests in total, or 54,663 tests per 1 million people. On Wednesday, it conducted 1,423,052 tests. India at present is the second-worst-hit country with 6,312,584 cases.

Here's a look at how the 10 most affected countries by total cases are doing in terms of testing:

India’s coronavirus testing strategy

For detection of Covid-19, India is primarily using the real-time-polymerase chain reaction test method, more commonly known as RT-PCR and considered gold standard of frontline testing for the novel coronavirus. According to the American Society for Microbiology, the combination of excellent sensitivity and specificity, low contamination risk, and speed has made RT-PCR technology an appealing alternative to culture- or immunoassay-based testing methods for diagnosing many infectious diseases. However, RT-PCR is not the only method being used in India. The Union health ministry has also introduced a range of other tests from time to time to help the country ramp up its testing.

With India’s strategy to combat Covid-19 being ‘test, track, and treat’, other types of tests like antibody, TrueNat and CBNAAT (tuberculosis tests) and antigen were introduced, even as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) faced a backlash for low testing levels. The RT-PCR results can be achieved in as little as three hours, but laboratories take between six and eight hours on average to deliver a reliable diagnosis.

Is India testing enough to monitor coronavirus outbreak in the country?

Before we compare state-wise data for tests conducted, let’s first understand test positivity rates. The test positivity rate, or TPR, is the percentage of tested people showing positive results for the presence of the virus. So, with more and more people being tested, the focus has now shifted TPR to get a measure of infections in the community and the extent of the pandemic’s spread.

Here’s a look at how Indian states are testing and their cumulative and daily TPR:



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