Jammu and Kashmir continues to witness a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases with the latest number of fresh cases crossing the 300-mark in Jammu division in a single day. As per the official figures, Jammu division has recorded the highest number of cases at 354 in a day for the first time since the breakout of the novel coronavirus, taking the total number of cases to 8,536. While the Kashmir division recorded 432 cases, the total number of cases in Jammu and Kashmir rose to 37,163 with 15 additional deaths reported as per the official data on Sunday evening.
Sixteen positive cases were reported from the BSF Camp Paloura in Jammu city, in addition to 4 employees testing positive from Chenab Textile Mills (CTM), Kathua, while 13 staffers from the Jaypee Company. The surge in the cases has been attributed to the increased Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT), as with widespread testing, more number of cases are being detected. To control the spread of the virus, Jammu district administration has started random RAT across the division. Reportedly, the administration has set a target of 19,150 tests in a week covering 110 locations including markets, government offices, etc.
Speaking to NewsClick, Dr Azhar Salim from Government Medical College, Doda, said that RAT has helped to expedite testing in the Jammu division. “The rise in the number of cases from Jammu division has to do with RAT, which has helped us to speed up the testing process as it is faster and also cheaper. Earlier, the test samples from Doda were sent to GMC Jammu. It wasted a lot of time but now with RAT, we test in Doda labs only. Normally, the RAT takes 20-25 minutes to show the result.”
Commenting on the reliability of these tests, Salim said, “If you ask me personally, initially I found these tests to be 8-10% reliable, but the increase in the cases in the last few days has assured me that the tests are 50-60% reliable. Today, till now, we have tested 35 people in Doda of which 11 have tested positive. So, it definitely has helped us to cover more locations.”
Commenting on the concerns raised over the accuracy of RAT, Salim explained that the process is faster in picking up on heavy-load positive cases, but might miss cases where the viral load is lower. “Yes, it is true that the test results do show false negatives. If the viral load is low, the test won’t be able to catch the virus and will show the result to be negative. So, majorly, the most asymptomatic cases with no symptoms and low are likely to report a false negative.”
In Jammu division, the district-wise break up shows that Jammu has the highest number of cases with 1,128 active cases and Ramban has the lowest with 19 active cases.
NewsClick tried contacting DC, Jammu Sushma Chauhan, but could not get through.