After maintaining much secrecy on the number of tests being conducted in Telangana, the state Health Department on Monday said 22,842 tests have been done till May 14.
The figure is one of the lowest in the country. However, sources say authorities have no plans to ramp up testing. The state has been receiving flak for not testing enough and under-reporting COVID-19 data.
The last official information on testing from the government was on April 30 when Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said the Health Department has tested about 19,325 samples.
This roughly translates to an average of over 200 tests conducted per day, making it the lowest among the southern states. Telangana has conducted only about 3,500 tests in the first two weeks of May even as capital city Hyderabad was labelled a virus hotspot by the Centre.
Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, which recently fast-tracked its testing pattern, has conducted over two lakh tests in the same period (2,01,196) with an average of over 5,000 tests per day.
Karnataka has tested 1,28,373 samples, Tamil Nadu 2,79,467, while Kerala has conducted 39,380 tests in the same period (up to May 14).
Telangana on Monday added 41 new cases, taking the total to 1,592 while the number of recoveries crossed the 1,000-mark with the discharge of 10 people, said the Health Department. According to a media bulletin, as many as 26 of the new cases were reported from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation limits, three from Medchal, and 12 were returnees to the state.
A senior doctor said health is a state subject and proactive measures need to be taken to deal with the crisis.
“Testing is a great tool to control the virus’s spread in containment zones. Only lockdown will not help fight COVID-19, testing needs to be ramped up. Lower testing is a reason for worry, especially for a state like Telangana with its capital Hyderabad heavily dependent on economic activities,” said the doctor who did not wish to be identified.
The doctor added it would be prudent for any state to trace more, test more and provide better quarantine facilities.
The Telangana government has said no to random testing, arguing it would cause "panic" among people. The state does not test asymptomatic patients. In a few instances, it did not test patients without a travel history even if they displayed influenza (flu)-like symptoms. Random testing of frontline workers is also not being done unless they show symptoms.
State Congress leader Uttam Kumar Reddy said 652 tests per a million people were being done in Telangana at a time when the national average is 1,600. “Is government policy- less tests mean less #COVID cases?” he wrote on Twitter on Monday.
The high court recently pulled up the administration for not testing suspected deceased patients.
A few days ago, Health Minister Eatala Rajender said the state is strictly following Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines (ICMR) for testing. “We are strictly following ICMR guidelines that are being updated from time to time,” he told News18.
Maharashtra, Delhi and even West Bengal (criticised for under-reporting and fewer tests) have done better in this regard.
“Testing-wise a lot needs to be done in Telangana. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has a lot of containment zones." Indian Medical Association (IMA) Telangana unit secretary Dr Sanjeev Singh Yadav told News18. "Also, we are at such a stage where we are not sure about variations in the mutation of virus. This raises questions like if one test is enough or not.”
The Telangana government on Monday announced an extension of the lockdown till May 31 while declaring the entire state, barring containment areas, as green zones where it allowed several relaxations such as resumption of public transport, hair salons and e-commerce activities.
Rao said all shops can be opened in the state except in Hyderabad where they can function on an alternate (odd-even) basis. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) commissioner would announce the guidelines. However, no shops can be opened in containment areas.
State-run road transport Corporation buses can resume from Tuesday, but not in the city. Rao said Metro train and inter-state bus services would not operate. He said autos and taxis would be allowed in the city. In taxis, a driver plus three passengers would be allowed. In autos, a driver and two passengers would be allowed.
Hair salons and e-commerce can function.
Government and private offices can function 100% by following COVID-19 norms. Factories, industries and manufacturing units are also allowed to function by following the norms.
Curfew would continue in the state as it is till May 31 (during night time). All places of worship would remain closed and no religious festivals would be allowed, said the chief minister.
All educational institutions, cinema halls, malls and function halls would remain closed.
(With inputs from PTI)