COVID-19: Diminishing positive cases in Telangana

COVID-19 in Telangana: Dwindling test numbers and diminishing positive cases

Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, with large-scale testing, presents a contrasting picture

Representative image. Credit: Reuters Photo

In what appears to be good news, COVID-19 cases reported in Telangana in the last few days are alleviating.

There were 13 new cases on Friday, on Saturday seven, on Sunday 11, and on Monday it was only two. Chief Minister Chandrasekhar Rao sees these dwindling numbers “as an auspicious sign” and “clear indications that the state (Telangana) would be corona-free in a few days”.

However, the low positive cases are allegedly proportional to the low testing numbers in Telangana with its 3.5 crore population (2011 census) – less than 19,000 as per Telangana’s COVID-19 website. The total number of cases in Telangana till Monday night was 1003.

In comparison, the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, with its five crore population, has conducted 80,334 tests – with 1504 tests per million, the highest average among all the states in the country – and four times the Telangana figure.

AP recorded 1259 positive cases till Tuesday morning. AP officials attribute the high figure to their large-scale testing “to detect cases early and prevent them from becoming super-spreaders”.

AP’s new cases of the last five days is 82 (out of 5783 samples tested on Monday), 80 (6517 samples tested on Sunday), 81 (6768 samples on Saturday), 61 (6928 on Friday) and 62 (6306 on Thursday).

In contrast, on Friday, as per Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender, they tested 540 samples resulting in 13 positive cases. On Monday, as per the CMO, it was a mere 159 tests, showing only two positives.

Speaking to DH, Dr G Srinivasa Rao, Director of Public Health, Telangana, that “each state has its own strategy in dealing with the pandemic”.

“We are doing tests where it is required and as per the ICMR guidelines. There is no question of less or more tests. Our strategy is whatever the government of India recommends, which is tests on all symptomatic people, all primary contacts,” Rao said.

However, some accusations including that of a symptomatic journalist are COVID-19 characteristic people visiting government hospitals for tests are turned away “as they lack travel history or primary contact with COVID-19 patient”. 

Telangana’s approach is thus different from AP, where in addition to RT-PCR and TrueNat TB machine tests, AP is using the Korean rapid antibody-based kits for community surveillance.

“They have their own method on which I cannot comment. Earlier, we also did the same during the Markaz episode – about 10,000 tests on returnees, their primary, secondary contacts, as it was a targeted approach. That detection is complete. And now with our containment measures and lockdown, the fresh case number would be definitely less,” the health director, a key official in COVID-19 mitigation, says.

However, the official claims that on average over 300 samples are being tested daily in Telangana nowadays “which was over a thousand earlier.”.

“With no big targeted group, why do more tests unnecessarily?” Dr Rao questioned.

Rebutting some media reports, Rao said Telangana is not attempting to develop herd immunity with lesser tests. “Herd immunity might occur at a later, right time, with vaccine support. As of now, there is no proof of herd immunity anywhere (in the world).”