With Just 18 Tests Per Million of Population, Why India’s Low Testing Rate For Coronavirus is Worrying
Representative Image. Healthcare workers stand outside an isolated ward for coronavirus patients. (Photo: PTI)
New Delhi: Under a complete lockdown until at least April 14, India has so far reported 694 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 16 deaths because of the pandemic.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India had performed 25,144 tests on 24,254 individuals as of 8pm on March 25. Among these, a total of 581 individuals had been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases.
This puts the rate of testing in India at nearly 18 tests per one million of the population (World Bank estimates, 2018).
Experts have argued that India’s low number of coronavirus cases could be because of limited testing and the actual figures of infected people may be higher.
Apart from China, in countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and South Korea, which saw a meteoric rise in confirmed coronavirus cases, the rate of testing is much higher compared with India.
For instance, Italy, which has recorded 74,386 cases of Covid-19, has performed 3, 24,445 tests as on March 25 — a rate of 5,268 tests per million of the population — according to its ministry of health. As per the Department of Health and Social Care, the UK has performed 97,019 tests so far at a rate of 1,469 tests per million people. The UK has 9,529 positive cases of coronavirus.
Similarly, South Korea, which witnessed a sharp rise in cases (9,137 as on Wednesday) but eventually managed to contain the crisis, had performed 3,57,896 tests at a rate of 6,931 tests per million people.
The United States, the most populated country after China and India, has tested citizens at a rate of 1,280 per million of population, according to The Covid Tracking Project, an independent project that collates real-time data from state health departments, press briefings, and media reports. Official testing figures by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention lag by some days, are incomplete and, hence, significantly lower. The US currently has nearly 60,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Even within India, according to an analysis by IndiaSpend.com, states and UTs which have more testing centers and are performing more tests, have reported a higher number of coronavirus cases.
While the World Health Organization applauded India’s measures to contain the spread of the virus, its Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said a lockdown alone may not help extinguish the epidemic.
"Aggressive measures to find, isolate, test, treat and trace is not only the best and fastest way out of extreme social and economic restrictions, but they're also the best way to prevent them,” he said.