In the last three weeks, Telangana has reported 70% of its total confirmed COVID-19 cases recording the state’s highest spike of 985 new cases on Friday, June 26. The alarming spike has also prompted several markets and shops in the state’s capital to choose for voluntary lockdown as the test positivity rate of the state has also been highest during the period, next only to Delhi and Maharashtra.
Experts opine that the state government’s strategy of low testing both during lockdown and post lockdown is the significant reason for the surge in number of cases.
As on Friday, the state has tested just 75,308 samples since the first COVID-19 positive case was reported on March 2 in Hyderabad. So far, total tests conducted per million across India stands at 5,836, while the figure for Telangana stood at 1,906. A total of 237 people have died of the virus in the state.
Low testing and metropolitan character of Hyderabad may have contributed to the increase in the number of cases, said Professor Nageshwar Rao, a political analyst based in the state. “Telangana has tested the lowest number of samples compared to large and neighbouring states. It was only last week that the private labs were allowed to test for the virus. On the other side, Hyderabad has similar features of Delhi and Mumbai in terms of population density, movement of peopleand one third of population of Telangana reside in the capital,” Nageshwar Rao told NewsClick. Over 80% of the reported confirmed cases are from Hyderabad or Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
Meanwhile, the state government has blamed private testing centres for the increase in the positivity rate in the state. The state reported a daily positive rate ranging between 20% and 40% in the last two weeks.
In the media bulletin released on Friday evening, the Health Department noted that there has been a disparity in the data submitted by the labs to ICMR and state portals,and stated that the positivity rate would have been lower if the labs had submitted correct data.
“In Telangana, only persons showing symptoms are being tested for the virus and that could be the reason for the high positivity rate. But, there have been lapses in contact tracing and isolation of patients during and after lockdown that is reflecting in the surge in the cases,” opined Nageshwar Rao.
Telangana High Court has at numerous times raised red flags over the state’s low testing policy. For instance, as on May 14, three days before the state government announced certain relaxations in lockdown, the state had conducted just 22,842 tests, one of the lowest in the country. Whereas, by that date, neighbouring states, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had conducted 2.1 lakh tests and 2.9 lakh tests, respectively.