MUMBAI: Amidst criticism of inadequate Covid-19 tests, the state seems to be accelerating daily testing numbers at perhaps the fastest pace in India.

In the second week of September, Maharashtra increased number of tests by 12.3% over the previous week. While 5.3 lakh tests were done in the first week of September, the total touched 5.9 lakh in the following week. In this period, all-India testing rate rose by 6%.
Data compiled by TOI shows Covid-19 tests done in Maharashtra has been steadily rising through September – the worst month with almost 5 lakh cases recorded. If 65,000 tests was the daily average in August, corresponding number for September so far has been 84,000. “On some days, we are just shy of a lakh,” said a senior public health officer. Nationally, the daily average is about 9-10 lakh tests.
Maharashtra has the lowest cost for testing – Rs 1,600 for an RT-PCR test as against Rs 4,500 in the initial days – and has over 104 laboratories in the public sector alone offering RT-PCR tests. It also has one of the most liberal testing policies in the country, allowing for testing without prescription.
However, experts acknowledged the need for more testing to snap transmission chains. “Given our population, Mumbai should be ideally be testing around 50,000 a day and Maharashtra around 6 lakh a day, but we don’t have the capacity to do so many tests,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, who is a member of the state Covid task force.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, earlier in the week, said Maharashtra would increase number of daily tests to 1.5 lakh. As government unlocks further, demand for tests increases, especially among corporate houses for their employees. “As we unlock, we will continuously focus on testing. In many parts of the state where industries have opened up, testing camps are being organized for employees,” said a senior official.
Door-to-door surveys have also led to increased testing and positivity. “But the spurt in testing is due to large-scale use of the less accurate rapid antigen tests,” said an official. As re-testing of negative samples is low, there is a chance many cases are missed.

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