States That Are Testing More Are Detecting More Cases, Data Show

States That Are Testing More Are Detecting More Cases, Data Show

Mumbai: Indian states and union territories that have more testing centres and are testing more samples are reporting higher numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, an IndiaSpend analysis of testing and case data from 11 states shows*.

Kerala, now the state with the most cases at 109, leads the country in testing, having cumulatively tested 4,516 samples till date.

Maharashtra, which now has the second highest number of confirmed cases at 101, has tested 2,144 samples since January 18, 2020.

Kerala and Maharashtra make up for over 37% of the total detected cases in India. [See our COVID-19 tracker here.]

In contrast, Chhattisgarh and Odisha have tested fewer than 200 samples and detected one and two cases, respectively.

India is not testing nearly enough to rule out community transmission, as we reported on March 19, 2020. “If our testing numbers are not consistent with the rest of the world then we need to do better,” Om Shrivastava, an infectious diseases specialist at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai, had told us.

Since then, India has expanded the testing criteria so that in addition to people who have travelled internationally in the last 14 days, contacts of confirmed cases, and symptomatic healthcare workers, patients with severe acute respiratory illness (who have fever and cough and/or shortness of breath) and people who have no symptoms but are in direct and high-risk contact with confirmed cases, can get tested. It has also opened more testing centres, including private ones, to take the number to 131.

Yet, states with higher populations are conducting fewer tests. For instance, West Bengal which has a population of 91 million has so far tested two per million people. Odisha--home to 42 million people--has conducted only three tests for a million people.

Andhra Pradesh, where five tests are conducted per million, has a population of 50 million.

In comparison, Kerala with fewer people at 33 million, has conducted 137 tests per million. Maharashtra and Karnataka have tested 19 and 27 samples per million people, respectively.

So far, COVID-19 cases have been detected in 23 states and union territories. India had confirmed 562 COVID-19 cases until 9.15 a.m. on March 25, 2020.

By March 24, 22,694 samples from 21,804 individuals had been tested, as per the Indian Council of Medical Research’s latest update. Close to 41.5% (9,409) of these tests were conducted in the last five days (March 20-24), at an average of nearly 1,882 tests per day.

Kerala has conducted 17% of all tests in the last five days--that is 1,595 tests. Till March 3, 2020, when cases in India started to spike, Kerala had conducted 520 tests.

Altogether so far, close to 20% (4,516) of total samples tested, have been in Kerala. Maharashtra has conducted 2,144 tests (9.4% of the total). These states, as we said earlier, have detected over a 100 cases each and lead the country’s tally.

States with more laboratories are testing more and detecting more cases, data show. Kerala and Maharashtra each have eight laboratories, the highest in India. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have seven each.

West Bengal and Odisha only have two centres each, and have detected nine and two patients, respectively.

(Shreya Raman is a data analyst with IndiaSpend. With inputs from Jameela Ahmed, an IndiaSpend contributor and Nidhi Jacob, an intern with IndiaSpend.)

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