Odisha’s COVID Testing Strategy Leaves Experts Worried; Know Why

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Bhubaneswar: Odisha may be among the top ranking states in terms of the number of COVID-19 tests, but it has a dismal performance when it comes to RT-PCR tests.

As per data tabled by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Budget session, out of 11 states, Odisha ranks ninth with RT-PCR comprising merely 20 per cent of the total tests conducted. Tamil Nadu has the highest of 99 per cent.

As of February 9, Odisha had conducted a total of 75,76,249 COVID-19 tests of which the number of RT-PCR test was 14,92,264. Among the remaining 80 per cent tests, 79 per cent was done through rapid antigen test and one per cent through TrueNat and CBNAAT.

This low number of RT-PCR tests in Odisha has experts worried. They said the state government’s over dependence on rapid antigen test may be throwing up wrong numbers on recovered cases.

Former adviser to the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Tribhuban Mohapatra, pointed out that the rapid antigen test shows a large number of false negative cases.

As the identification of persons below 40 years having COVID-19 symptoms through this test is nearly impossible, it is very difficult to isolate them and conduct their contact tracing. As a result, the elderly members in the family of these persons have more chances of contracting the virus, he explained.

Mohapatra revealed that out of a total of 57 COVID-19 test centres in Odisha, the RT-PCR tests are conducted in only 13 government hospitals and 12 private hospitals and diagnostic centres.

“The RT-PCR is one of the most accurate tests. But the number of such tests in Odisha is meagre,” he said.

“If we go by the shortcomings of the rapid antigen test, the claim of the state government that there is an appreciable fall in the number of new cases cannot be taken into confidence,” he added.

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