Coronavirus cases in India: On October 11, India recorded 74,383 infections, and the country had conducted 10,78,544 tests. Over the last two weeks, starting September 23, India has been conducting more tests, but the daily infections have been falling. The country’s positivity rate — daily cases upon daily tests — which was once trending at a high of 12.6% on September 7, has come down to 6.9%.
While this may indicate a slowing down of infection in the country, as India prepares for its second wave, careful analysis of testing data across states shows otherwise. While testing certainly has increased to 11 lakh tests a day levels, India has been testing more using the rapid antigen tests, which detect lower infections.
The government does not provide a breakup between RT-PCR and RAT tests, but this can be gauged from the share of states that rely on RAT tests increasing overtime.
Bihar, where over 90% of the daily tests are done using RAT tests, has increased its share from 7.4% on September 1 to 9.6% today. Similarly, Delhi, where RAT accounts for 80% of all tests, has increased its share from 3.7% to 4.1% during the same period. Gujarat’s share has gone up from 5.4 to 5.7%, whereas Odisha’s share has jumped from 4.1 to 4.3%. In fact, states using more RAT now account for 41.2% of India’s total tests, a jump from 36.6% on September 1 and 29% on August 1.
Meanwhile, the positivity rate in the states relying heavily on RAT has tumbled. On Friday, while Bihar conducted 1,06,817 tests, it had only found 1,170 people positive. In the case of Gujarat, the positivity rate was also a low 2.4%.On the other hand, Tamil Nadu, which relies entirely on RT-PCR, the positivity was 5.7%.
Moreover, the share of states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, which rely more on RT-PCR has declined in the total tests. On September 1, Maharashtra accounted for 9.6% of the country’s corona tests, whereas today it accounts for just 8.7%. Tamil Nadu’s share has fallen from 11.1% to 9.5%.
Even among states where the share has stayed constant reliance on antigen tests has increased. In Kerala, for instance, only half of the 14,137 samples collected on September 1 were using RAT, on Sunday, 47,529 or 72% of total samples accounted for RAT.
Thus, it may be too early to celebrate India’s victory over corona or declaring India to be over the curve.