People are no longer rushing to get tested if they have fever or cough, following reports that most Covid patients in the third wave of infections are having only mild symptoms, public health experts and officials at testing centres have said.
In the first seven to 10 days of the current surge - thought to be driven by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus - a large number of people preferred to get tested.
There was no prior knowledge about what would be the impact of the variant in India.
But a fortnight later, most people who tested positive for Covid have recovered with mild illness, leading many others to drop the thought of getting tested even if they have symptoms common to Covid.
The state health department’s January 9 bulletin said 71,664 Covid tests had been performed in the previous 24 hours. On Saturday, the bulletin mentioned that 64,572 tests were performed in the previous 24 hours.
In the three days before that, the number of daily Covid tests varied between 71,000 and 73,000.
According to the January 9 bulletin, 24,287 people had tested positive in the previous 24 hours. Saturday’s bulletin said 19,064 people had tested positive in the previous 24 hours. On the three days before that, the number of people testing positive were 22,645, 23,467 and 22,155, respectively.
Though some private hospitals and laboratories said their rate of positivity had dropped, public health experts cautioned that it was too early to draw a conclusion.
Public health expert Abhijt Chowdhury said there was a difference between what people should do and what they do. He said people made individual decisions based on their experience and understanding.
“In the first few days of the current surge, people were afraid whether this would turn out to be as severe as the previous waves. The experience so far has been different. This has led people to think that it is fine to skip testing even if they have fever,” said Chowdhury, who is also a member of the Bengal government’s Covid task force.
But Chowdhury was quick to add it was too early to say whether the trend of drop in testing would persist or testing would pick up again.
Officials of diagnostic laboratories and hospitals said the number of daily Covid tests had dropped significantly in the last few days.
Suraksha Diagnostics was doing around 1,500 Covid tests every day in the first week of January. It has done about 600 tests in the last two or three days, said Somnath Chatterjee, director of Suraksha.
AMRI Hospitals had done 800 Covid tests on January 10. On Friday — January 14 — it conducted 250 tests. “We did the highest number of Covid tests during the current surge on January 10. On most days leading to January 10, we were doing around 550 tests. But the numbers have dipped in the last two or three days,” said an official of AMRI Hospitals.
Peerless Hospital saw a similar drop in test numbers.
Officials of the hospitals and diagnostic centres said a good number of those still going for the test were people who had a flight to catch or had to stay in a hotel where a negative RT-PCR report was required.
Doctors said the revised testing strategy for the country was also the reason why fewer people are opting for the test.
The testing guideline issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on January 10 said “asymptomatic individuals” and “contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19 unless identified as high risk based on age or comorbidities” need not undergo a Covid test.
A man in his 40s, whose mother tested positive, did not undergo a test for himself.
A number of people are also testing themselves at home using Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits after buying them from medical stores. The ICMR’s website has a list of RAT kits approved by it with literature and links of video demonstrations of how to do the tests using RAT kits.