After recording a massive and consistent spike since the last week of December, Mumbai’s daily caseload has hovered between 19,000 and 20,000 cases over the past four days. The number of tests conducted in the city too, has remained consistently between 67,000 and 72,000. While this may present a picture of a stabilising third wave driven by the Omicron variant, experts warn that the numbers may be far higher that what is being officially reported. The reasons? On the one hand, an increased reliance on home test kits that allows no official supervision on positive cases, and on the other hand, asymptomatic persons who are not undergoing any tests at all.
Though the daily caseload has risen by nearly 44% since December 31, the city on Sunday recorded 19,474 cases which is a 4% decline over the previous day’s 20,318 cases. Even the number of tests conducted — 68,249 — was down by 2,770 from Saturday, official figures showed. As a result, the daily test positivity rate (TPR) declined, too. In fact, TPR (a function of the number of positive cases per tests conducted) has steadily declined since last week, from 29.90% on Thursday to 28.90% on Friday, 28.60% on Saturday and 28.53% on Sunday. Experts said that TPR is no longer the most reliable indicator to judge the spread of the pandemic as a large number of people with less severe symptoms are choosing not to get tested and many are opting for home self-testing kits.
Hospitalisation rates, however, must be tracked as they indicate the extent of the disease burden of the third wave, experts said. In the last one week alone, the Covid-bed occupancy has gone up to 21% from around 15% a week back.
Maharashtra’s Covid-19 task force member Dr Shashank Joshi said that Mumbai’s wave seems to have flattened with daily cases between 19,000 to 20,000. “But the true picture is difficult [to judge] due to the wide use of unreported rapid tests,” he said.
“We need to focus on the other criteria like doubling rate, hospitalisations, patients needing oxygen, ventilator and intensive care. The variant is circulation is highly transmissible, therefore test positivity is likely to be higher,” said Joshi said.
As many as seven self-test kits have been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research including Coviself by Mylab, CoviFind by Meril Diagnostics, PanBio by Abbott among others. These kits are affordable for the middle class, and range anywhere between ₹250 to ₹350.
“We have witnessed a jump of almost 700% sales of our self-test kit in Mumbai in the last one week. Self-test kit is turning out to be highly beneficial given the massive increase in cases because people can get tested quickly and immediately isolate themselves,” said Hasmukh Rawal, managing director and co-founder of Mylab Discovery Solutions, a Pune-based firm that manufactures Coviself. According to reports, nearly 500,000 such kits have been sold in Mumbai in the past week.
Chemists in Mumbai have been selling anywhere between 300 to 400 self-testing rapid antigen kits daily. “Every chemist has been reporting a high demand, but it seems to have slowed down since the past two days, as the panic is settling down,” said Hakim Kapasi, a member of the Andheri Chemist Association, an umbrella body of more than 400 chemists in the Mumbai suburb.
Even so, over the past four days, self-test kits have reported around 3,000 positive results on average every day in Mumbai based on what has been uploaded to the ICMR portal.
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