Chikkamagaluru has the highest TPR at 1.27% while Bagalkot and Bidar have the lowest at 0.01%.
Karnataka has been consistently maintaining a test positivity rate (TPR) of less than 1% for the last 112 days. The State’s TPR has been on a steady decline since August 15 when the seven-day average TPR touched 1.01%. It reduced to 0.63% in a month by September 15 and 0.26% on November 15.
Although TPR slightly increased to 0.42% by November 30, mainly due to clusters across the State, it again declined to 0.36% on December 9. Although five districts have a TPR higher than the State average, it is still hovering between 1.27% and 0.45% in these districts. Chikkamagaluru has the highest at 1.27% while Bagalkot and Bidar have the lowest at 0.01%. Five districts — Gadag, Koppal, Raichur, Ramanagaram, and Yadgir —have been maintaining zero TPR for the last three days. TPR, a vital marker in assessing the spread of an outbreak, is the percentage of people who are found to be infected by the virus from those who are being tested.
According to epidemiologists, a high positivity rate indicates that testing is relatively limited to people with high suspicion of COVID-19 and may miss new chains of transmission in the community.
With the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) having fixed a 2% cut-off threshold for TPR to impose restrictions, sources said districts were under pressure to increase testing and sustain the low TPR.
TAC chairman M.K. Sudarshan said the low TPR indicated that the infection rate was low despite a higher rate of testing. “We have recommended that the daily tests of one lakh should be maintained. Although TPR slightly increased by November-end, it was mainly due to clusters reported in educational institutions, especially nursing colleges in the border districts, hostels and boardings. However, the good thing is that cluster outbreaks are being promptly addressed and contained,” he said.
The TAC chairman attributed the cluster outbreaks to lack of proper screening and implementation of COVID appropriate measures in the institutions.
He said: “We have now recommended random checks in educational institutions, hostels, and residential schools by joint monitoring teams at the taluk level.”
Besides, the TAC had also recommended weekly testing of kitchen staff, wardens, and other office personnel of hostels and residential schools. “These people should furnish weekly negative RT-PCR reports during random checks. Unless these things are monitored and implemented, clusters are bound to occur, more so in the winter months. We have to continue to remain watchful,” he said.
C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 task force, said it was most important to sustain the low TPR now.
“It is high time we abolished the bunker bed system in boarding schools and hostels as bunker beds become easy source of infection,” he said.
‘Hold institution heads accountable’
Following COVID-19 cases emerging from cluster outbreaks in educational institutions and not from the community, some experts are now pushing for holding heads of such institutions and wardens of hostels accountable.
“We feel wardens and principals should be held responsible under the State Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Diseases Act if they are found to have failed in proper screening of students on arrival at the institutions and regularly monitor COVID-19-appropriate measures in residential schools and hostels,” a COVID-19 expert said. This is likely to be discussed in the next meeting of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee.
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