In COVID 19 count, J&K surpasses some most populous states of India
For better health dividends of the lockdown, experts suggest aggressive testing
Srinagar: As the union territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir continues to surpass the most populous states of India in the COVID 19 count, medical experts here stress for aggressive testing to contain the disease from reaching a stage where its underdeveloped health care resources may collapse under its weight.
By the evening of April 27 the autonomous state turned UT reported 546 novel coronavirus infections, with 488 from Kashmir. The toll is higher than many populous states of India like Bihar, Assam and Karnataka.
According to the government data, Bihar having a population of approximately 12 crore had only 345 COVID 19 cases till April 27. Similarly Karnataka with a population of 6.6 crore had 512 confirmed cases while as Assam which has a population of 3.5 crore had 36 positive cases and one fatality.
J&K which reported its seventh COVID related death on Monday follows the top 11 highly infected states of India.
For a population of 1.35 crore the UT conducted 14,988 tests, out of which 546 reported positive. Although the testing has been scaled up but experts say the “limited” testing does not match the magnitude of the pandemic.
Dr Abdul Hamid Zargar, former director SK Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Kashmir termed the testing numbers in J&K “far below the optimal”.
He said although the lockdown plays an important role in curbing the spread of the Coronavirus but “the dragnet of testing is too loose to give us the desired outcome”.
“The more you test the better the health dividends of the lockdown. If we do not go for aggressive testing, the economic and social costs of the lockdown shall go down the drain”, warned Prof Zargar.
Although 164 people have recovered from COVID 19 in the UT but more than 67000 travelers and persons in contact with suspected cases are under surveillance.
Dr Mir Sadaqat, a consultant at Government Medical College Srinagar suggested “the government should at least conduct the tests of all these person under surveillance. This can help identify the carriers and prevent the spread of the disease”.
But given the constraint of resources the government has declared 90 residential areas where corona cases have surfaced, as red zones. The zones are sealed and their population monitored.
Prof Parvez Koul, head Department of Internal & Pulmonary Medicine at SKIMS says that the level of actual infections of novel Corona is unknown in Kashmir.
He said “there may be many asymptomatic infected persons in the community who may be acting as carriers. That is an impending danger”. He suggested its repulsion by community testing.
“Random testing can be an option to give us an idea as to where do we stand. This can reflect the quantum of the disease in the community which cannot be obtained by travel and contact surveillance”, he said.
Stressing on aggressive testing, experts say J&K stands nowhere in global data on COVID 19 testing.
“If it does not intensify testing, its modicum health care infrastructure may not be able to handle the pandemic if infections are not detected in time and prevented from spreading” warned Prof Zargar.
The status of J&K underdeveloped health care infrastructure can be estimated from the fact that one health sub center in J&K caters to people living in a radius of six kilometers while as the national average is 2.61 kilometers.