India, the lowest scorer in the world on COVID19 tests

WHO, in its beginning directive had suggested that way out to fight COVID19 is test, test and test besides other measures including self quarantine of people (read lock down). And this directive is simply ignored for some reason or other.

According to WorldOMeters, a reference website that provides counters and real-time statistics for diverse topics, Government of India has so far tested one of the lowest number of patients in proportion to its population. It has done 93 tests on one million population, totaling 128,320 out of 1.33 billions so far. In terms of testing people, Pakistan scored better. Pakistan has done 158 tests on one million population.

In terms of test-population ratio, middle east countries score the best in Asia and they have succeeded in checking spread.

UAE has a score of 22,224 on one million population. It has tested 2,20,000. It has 1505 confirmed cases and 10 deaths. It has reported no further confirmation of the disease.

Qatar has 11,090 tests in proportion of its one million population and has 1325 confirmed cases of COVID19. This middle east country was one of the most and earliest affected countries in the middle east and has also succeeded in checking the spread. It has reported no case these days.

USA is the worst hit country in the world. It has the largest number of cases- 311,637. Cases in USA are spreading as it has speeded up the rate of testing. It has 16,56,897 tests so far on its account, 5,006 tests per million population. 8,454 deaths have been reported due to this pandemic.

Spain is the second worst hit country in the world. It has 1,30,759 confirmed cases and a total 12,418 deaths reported. It has performed 3,55,000 tests so far with 7,593 per million population.

Italy is the most affected country in terms of deaths. It has 15,362 number of death cases.

Why More Tests Are Important in India?

India is a large country and home to a huge number of people who live in slums and small houses. Thus, it is impossible to maintain social distancing for the poor and the slum dwellers. Unidentified carriers will infect more people.

Second important reason to test more is that Indians are not used to consulting doctors when they have flu like symptoms. They are used to over-the-counter (OTC) drugs or rely on quacks. COVID19 has similar symptoms like flu. Cold, sneeze and breathlessness are primary symptoms of COVID19 and they match with seasonal flu. Unfortunately, due to change in climate, these symptoms are common in most of the homes today. It is highly expected that those who are in doubts of having flu may be carrying the deadly virus and thus forwarding ahead.

Third important reason of testing is incubation period of novel Corona virus. According to WHO, the incubation period for COVID-19 ranges from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. If one is infected today, symptoms may be reflected immediately or after two weeks even and during this period the virus can infect many as India is a densely populated country.

Imagine a 10 by 10 room where 6 to 8 people are living and suppose one of them is infected, it is inevitable that few more would be infected as there is no scope of social distancing in that small size. Recent outbreak in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum in Mumbai may be an eye opener where five cases have been confirmed. More than a million people live in this slum area of 5-sqkm. Families live here in the cramped huts and over 70 per cent of the residents have no separate toilet. They use community toilets.

The most important reason for more and more tests in India is its poor healthcare infrastructure. Early diagnosis will help check further spread and this cannot be done without tests.

According to a report in BBC, India has eight doctors per 10,000 people and one state-run hospital for more than 55,000 people. These state run hospitals are short of even basic facilities that handling widespread disease is not their cup of coffee. Private hospitals are out of reach for most people.

India is also very penny-pincher in terms of spending on health care.  It spends a paltry 1.28% of its GDP on it, and it can not afford if there is a full-blown outbreak.

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