New Delhi The Delhi government conducted a record 45,797 tests for Covid-19 on Tuesday — days after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced the ramping up of testing to 40,000 daily samples to tackle a resurgence of cases.
This was the first time that the number of daily tests crossed the CM’s target of 40,000 announced on August 26 though a gradual increase in testing in Delhi had started from August 31, with the city setting new records for daily tests in five out of the last seven days.
The milestone in Covid-19 testing comes on the same day that the Delhi high court removed the requirement of a doctor’s prescription to get a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, tests in the city.
As testing increased, 3,609 new cases were reported in Delhi — the highest single-day case count since June 24, 76 days ago, when 3,788 new cases were reported. Over the past week, Delhi has recorded 2,868 new cases every day on average.
Cases in Delhi rose rapidly through May and June, and started dropping by end of June after hitting an initial peak. After a steady drop in cases for around three weeks (seven-day average of daily cases dropped to 983 by August 4), cases again started rising alarmingly from mid-August. As of Tuesday, there are 197,135 cases in the city.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said people should not panic over the rising number of daily cases. “The main reason why Covid-19 cases are more now is because we have more than doubled our testing. It is part of our ‘test, track, treat and isolate’ strategy, which essentially is the Delhi model,” he said.
He added the current daily numbers cannot be compared to the cases reported in June, when 18,000-20,000 tests were being conducted daily and the fresh cases ranged between 2,000-3,000.
Also on Tuesday, the Delhi high court said that a doctor’s prescription is not required anymore for asymptomatic patients to get an RT-PCR test. Until now, if someone who did not have any Covid-19 symptoms wanted to get an RT-PCR test (which is considered the gold standard for tests) in Delhi, they had to produce a doctor’s prescription. Delhi residents, however, could get antigen tests without any prescription.
Now, only Aadhaar cards (with Delhi address) and an Indian Council of Medical Research form would be required for people who want to get RT-PCR test. On a trial basis, RT-PCR tests for asymptomatic patients would be capped at 2,000 a day, the court said.
With 9,944 RT-PCR tests, Delhi also set a record for the highest number of single-day RT-PCR tests, according to Tuesday’s health bulletin. Previously, this record was set on June 29, when Delhi conducted 9,619 such tests.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet on Tuesday: “The Delhi government has increased testing multifold. I have directed the health minister this morning that doctor’s prescription should not be asked for testing. Anyone can get himself tested.”
With the increase in tests, the average positivity rate has also started declining. Around 7.9% of tests came back positive on Tuesday. The number, which had dropped from a peak of 31.4% in mid-June to 5.7% at the end of July, was 8.4% in the past week. Overall, 10.7% of all tests done in Delhi have come back positive.
Experts welcomed the increase testing in Delhi and said rising cases are not an immediate concern.
“The government has taken a very good step of ramping up testing massively. What we need to see is that the number of positive cases that we are reporting every day is not that bad considering the number of tests. We were reporting the same number of cases with maybe 15,000-odd tests in June. The government has also asked hospitals to test all the patients coming into the OPD and their family members too, if needed. This has resulted in us detecting several asymptomatic cases that might have otherwise transmitted the infection on to others,” said Dr SK Sarin, director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Disease where the city’s first plasma bank is located.
(With inputs from Richa Banka)