Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Corona (COVID-19): India needs to ramp up testing

SARS-COV-2 Testing (from OutWorldInData[5]). China is excluded from this list
Conducting more tests will help to identify all those who need care early. This will, in turn, reduce the mortality rate. For e.g. Germany (a country which do mass tests) has a mortality rate of just 0.3% whereas Italy stands at 7.9%. In Asia, South Korean test rate is 6150 tests/million people and the Indian one is just 6.8.

Tests/Day – An Overview [3]

South Korea:
South Korea has the capacity to test 15,000 people/day. As of last Friday, they tested over 3,16,600 people.
Test rate is more than 6,150 tests/million people. One of the highest in the world.

Struggling with tests. Don't have enough resources to diagnose all cases. Just more than 39,000 tests conducted so far. This is going to create a lot of problems for them in the future.

Has a capacity to carry out more than 2,500 tests a day. Priority is given for healthcare professionals and very sick people.

Ability to conduct 12,000 tests/day

Currently 4,000 tests/day. Plan to increase that to 25,000/day.

Currently 1,500 tests/day
China promised 10,000 test kits to Poland. Close to one week and there is no information on whether they got it or not.

Some of the numbers I gave above are a couple of days old.

Some companies which produces these test kits are, Thermofisher Scientific, Seegene, LabCoprp, Hologic, Danaher, Roche Diagnostics, Integrated DNA Technologies, Abbott Laboratories, Quidel, Qiagen, Sherlock Biosciences etc.


We are probably sitting blind. As per reports, India conducted just 17,000 tests till 22nd March. This in stark contrast to South Korea - whose population is much less than ours and a smaller country - which almost does that much in a day. We need to ramp up testing efforts rapidly. Otherwise, we won't even know how many people are affected. If the current number of affected people is correct, then we are very lucky. However, without doing proper coverage testing it is hard to say anything conclusively.

Test coverage is very much critical for containment and reduced mortality rate. There are examples that we can adopt. For e.g. South Korea came up with 'drive-through testing'. In this way, they are limiting the exposure of possibly affected people with the outside world[4] In South Korea, a company called Seegene has the capacity to produce 10,000 kits/week. Each of these kits can test 100 patients. This means, one million patients/week at cost of $20/test (1522 INR)

We need to accelerate testing. Government is taking some right steps in this direction. Last week union government gave its approval for private laboratories to begin testing samples and granted test licenses to a handful of companies to start trials. However, this is not enough. There are Indian companies that produced and gave testing kits to China and there are companies whose US arms already produce testing kits. We can't relay longer on the import of testing kits from Germany and other countries. If the virus spreads faster there, then they may not be able to export so much for us.

As per the latest updates, New Delhi approved a test kit developed by Mylab known as 'Mylab PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit' for testing [1].

Till medicines are developed to stop SARS-COV-2, the one thing we should be doing is testing.


1. Times of India
2. Bangladesh approves locally developed low cost Corona testing Kit - DD News
3. EuroObserver
4. Corona Virus South Korea Testing - CNN
5. Corona Virus Testing Data - Our World In Data

PS: By the way as per the reports, five days back 'Gono shasthaya Kendra' from Bangladesh also developed their own testing kit. Government of Bangladesh alreday gave the approval. Now its send for approval from WHO. They are employing serology-based technique. This kit will use 'Rapid Blot-Dot' technique and looks for anti- bodies created in the body in response to Corona virus infection. According to the Gano shasthaya Kendra, the kit will cost approximately 250-300 Taka (227-273 INR as per current rates).[2]

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