The steady rise in Covid-19 infection levels, from an average of 12,520 every day in February – and a low of 8,635 on February 2 – to 16,583 in March so far may or may not be the beginning of a fresh wave of the type in some other parts of the world. But the collapse in testing levels, and the high prevalence of the less accurate Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT), may be a reason for the increase in infection levels.
India did an average of around 11.2 lakh tests every day in October and this was down to 7.2 lakh so far in March. The good news here, though, is that the positivity level – proportion of those testing positive – continues to be low; it fell from 5.6% in October to 2% in January and 1.8% in February, before rising to 2.3% in March so far.
Two examples of states that contribute the most to India’s infections, but followed different paths, may help illustrate the issue better.
In October, both Kerala and Maharashtra were roughly similar; Kerala contributed 12.3% of the average daily infections in the country while Maharashtra’s share was around 16%. In January, Kerala’s share was up to 34.4% while Maharashtra’s was up marginally, to 19.2%. In March so far, Kerala’s share is down to 16% while Maharashtra’s is up to 55%.
Kerala did an average of 54,591 tests per day from October to January, and then stepped this up to 65,597 in February; there has been a marginal dip in March so far, to 59,920. Positivity rates in the state fell from 13.9% in October to 9.8% in January and to 4.4% in March.
In Maharashtra, by contrast, testing levels fell from an average of 71,304 in October to 58,595 in February and then rose to 83,434 in March so far. Not surprisingly, positivity levels that fell from 14 in October to 5 in January then rose to 7.5 in February and are at 10.9 for the first eight days of March.
In other states like Madhya Pradesh, which accounted for 2.5% of India’s daily infections in March, similarly, has seen nearly a 50% fall in testing levels.