WITH Delhi and Mumbai registering a steep decline in their daily Covid-19 cases, medical experts say the figures hint at both metropolitan cities having reached the peak of the Omicron-driven surge.
Medical authorities say the national capital Delhi and the financial hub Mumbai have reported a big fall in COVID-19 infections in the past two days and most of those who contracted the virus have recovered at home.
Mumbai’s daily new infections fell below 10,000 on January 16, 2022, for the first time since early this month, after touching an all-time high of 20,971 on January 7.
Similarly, Delhi’s cases have fallen consistently since hitting a peak of 28,867 on January 13. The national capital recorded just a little above 11,000 cases in the last 24 hours, as compared to 12,527 cases on the previous day.
While health officials of both cities claim that hospitalisations have largely remained low, what’s also important to see is the fall in the number of tests being conducted daily.
Hence a pertinent point that needs to be looked at is whether the decline is on account of falling infections or a drop in testing in the two cities which faced the surge before other places during the current wave.
Decline In Daily Testing
Around 45,000 tests were conducted in the national capital on January 17, the lowest count since November 2021. As daily cases continue to dip, so do the testing numbers.
There were 79,578 tests conducted on January 11, of which just over 64,000 or 80% were conducted using the more accurate molecular procedures like RT-PCR. The reduction in the number of tests, officials say, is because of the change in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) testing guidelines that no longer allows testing on demand. Only those who are symptomatic, have high-risk contacts, or need to travel outside India are to be tested.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain claims that less testing does not equate to fewer Covid-19 cases. “Mild, asymptomatic, or high-risk contact cases, everyone gets tested,” he said. “We (the health authorities in Delhi) are conducting three times more tests than that required by the ICMR guidelines.”
The decline in the daily testing is similar in the case of Mumbai as well.
Then, there are reports which claim that since convenient home Covid-19 testing over the reliable RT-PCR has increased in Mumbai, thousands of cases may even be missing or unreported, considering people do not disclose the results to health authorities.
Increase In Positivity Rate
A point to note, however, is that the positivity rate, the proportion of samples that return positive, still continues its upward trend in Delhi. While the test positivity rate has been declining in Mumbai, it has been consistently rising in the national capital.
In the case of Mumbai, The positivity rate dropped to 13.7% on January 17 from an average of around 20-22% over the past week.
On the other hand, Delhi’s test positivity rate has been witnessing an increasing trend. Delhi recorded a TPR of 27.99% on January 17 as compared to a 27.87% on the previous day. In fact, Delhi recorded a TPR of 30. 64% on January 14, the highest in recent months in the capital.
Data suggests that a rise in the number of tests would lead to higher detection of cases in both cities. But a drop in TPR indicates that Mumbai may have reached its peak in infections while that doesn’t seem to be the case in Delhi.
“At the moment, it’s hard to say whether the drop is due to the peak or lower tests. The test positivity is high, so there are certainly people who are simply not being tested in sufficient numbers. People who are choosing not to be tested will skew the underlying numbers,” Gautam Menon, a professor at Ashoka University and the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, who is tracking the pandemic, told Deccan Herald.
“However, we did project that the Omicron wave in the big Indian cities would turn around early, around January 20, while it would take more time for the rest of the country, in particular rural India. So these signs are encouraging,” he added.