Not testing enough: Half of UP’s COVID-19 cases in 12 districts

These 12 districts also accounted for about 50% of total tests in the state

By Vivek Mishra
Published: Tuesday 25 May 2021
Half of UP's COVID-19 cases are in 12 districts, data shows. Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE
Half of UP's COVID-19 cases are in 12 districts, data shows. Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE Half of UP's COVID-19 cases are in 12 districts, data shows. Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases have reportedly been on the decline in Uttar Pradesh since the peak of the second wave in early May. Active cases have dipped; the overall positivity rate is about two per cent. The positivity rate, however, remained above 4 per cent in 12 of the state's 75 districts, with each having more than 2,000 active cases as on May 21.

The state government May 21 claimed that these 12 districts had a positivity rate between 5.2 and 14.8 per cent. Down to Earth analysed the official data — and the numbers told a different story.

DTE found out that as of May 21, about half of the state’s total COVID-19 cases were being reported from 12 districts, which were mostly urban. These 12 districts also accounted for about 50 per cent of total tests in the state; the remaining 63 districts accounted for the other 50 per cent.

Contact tracing in these districts was poor. About 25-30 close contacts of a COVID-19-positive patient should be tested, according to the Union government guidelines. But even in these 12 focussed districts where positivity rate was high, the tracing rate was not more than 8 per cent. 

The state had 103,275 active cases as on May 21. As many as 44,203 were in these 12 districts and the remaining in 63 districts. In April 2021, following the Allahabad high court order, the state government started focusing on seven districts: Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut, Bareli, Gorakhpur and Gautam Budha Nagar.

Inoculation drive for the 18-44 age group was started first in these seven districts. But as the cases rose in the second wave, the government shifted focus to the 12 districts recording the highest number of cases. Five of those seven districts are among the 12 districts at the centre of attention.

Why only focused districts in UP have a high positivity rate?

A high positivity rate is indicative of the rate of community transmission. It also gives an idea of whether adequate number of tests is being done or not. The data signifies that testing in these 12 districts was low.

Pendency of reports is another issue. RT-PCR tests — considered more accurate and reliable — show a high positivity rate compared to antigen tests. Even in these districts, only 40-50 per cent tests were RT-PCR.

The state has the capacity to conduct 146,640 tests daily; it is testing about 115,000 currently.

As on May 10, at least 0.2 million reports were pending with state labs with more than 72-hour pendency. Despite the improvement, on May 21, 53,333 reports were still pending for more than 24 hours.

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