LAHORE: The Punjab government has surprisingly reduced tests of Covid-19 to approximately 30-40 per cent across the province against its original capacity.
According to official figures, it has performed 5,301 tests during the last 24 hours in Punjab while the capacity was said to be 17,000 per day. Of the total tests, around 7,000 were being performed officially while others in the private sector.
Some health and medical experts believe that the tests were reduced when the positive cases ratio dropped to 10 per cent in Punjab. They were of the view that the Punjab government has cut down the number of tests to avoid wastage of funds because of the continuous decrease in positive ratio.
On average the Punjab government was to bear cost of Rs3,000 per test and expenses on 90 per cent of the total tests being performed daily were going waste, they claimed.
However, some critics alleged that the Punjab government has deliberately reduced tests to show less number of cases just to avoid criticism, putting lives of people at grave risk.
According to the official record, the Punjab government was conducting on average 10,000 tests daily a month back when around 1,500 new people were getting infected while over 60 deaths were taking place every day.
On June 20, as many as 10,188 Covid-19 tests were performed in Punjab when the 1,523 new confirmed cases and 60 deaths were reported. The total number of the positive cases was 65,739 across the province at that time, according to the official figures. While on July 1, the tests were reduced to 8,284 when 35 deaths were reported the same day all over the province. Similarly, 761 new confirmed cases were reported the same day.
The Punjab government, however, gradually decreased the tests to 7,000 (daily) in the mid of July. Later, it continued to cut down the number of tests.
On July 20, 7,024 tests were performed in Punjab while only 4 patients had died. The government had reported 398 new confirmed cases the same day.
A senior official of the health department defended the position of the Punjab government saying that no scientific reasons were available so far to establish the exact reasons/causes of decline in the Covid-19 cases in Punjab. However, the factors of bringing down the test ratio were evident. He said the Punjab government has been conducting tests of specified groups and communities including pilgrims who arrived from Iran, Tableeghi Jamaat members, media workers, security forces, passengers arriving from abroad, government employees etc.
As the government has stopped performing tests of above-mentioned people, the test ratio decreased automatically, he said.
Meanwhile, the positive rate of the cases also witnessed a sharp decrease in Punjab, the official said.
While giving a reference/example in this respect, he said, the health teams on Friday performed 5,301 tests across the province. Of them only 218 people tested positive for the virus while the 5,083 others could not be confirmed for the disease that showed a massive number of people undergoing tests unnecessarily.
Sharing an average figure, the official said, the general people and the government were paying on average Rs20 million to get “negative reports” of the Covid-19 that was resulting into wastage of huge money and time.
On the other hand, only two patients of Covid-19 died across the province during the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 2,140 in Punjab. Similarly, 218 new cases of the virus were reported during the same period and the total number of confirmed patients reached 92,873.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020