Testing Times

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ON Sunday, a senior journalist in Kashmir was tested positive for Coronavirus at Chest Diseases hospital laboratory. But a day after he was tested negative at the lab at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences. This has raised a question mark over the testing process followed to detect Covid-19 positive cases. Incidentally, On Sunday itself, the labs in J&K had detected 620 cases, the highest since the Covid-19 lockdown began in the union territory on March 25. It is not that the credibility of all these tests is under question but it is also true that a number of such tests could  now be viewed with doubt.  The government therefore needs to take note of it. Advisor to Governor Baseer Ahmad Khan has promised to look into it.  And it is important that the administration gets to the bottom of it. It is not only about  the negative cases being declared positive that should be of concern but also the positive cases being declared negative. In the former cases, the person and his family are subjected to unnecessary trauma but in the latter, the person himself, his family and all his contacts are put under grave risk. And imagine if there are many more such cases, it could wreak havoc on the ground.

There is more to it. Such faulty testing can artificially revise the number of Covid-19 cases upward and downward and thus project a wrong picture of the situation. And this, in turn, has far-reaching consequences for the society as a whole. As things stand, the government has declared eight out of the ten districts in Kashmir as Red Zones. This has meant continuation of the lockdown like restrictions in all these places. That too when  the Valley has already been under the lockdown for the past ten months. This has wrought havoc with the businesses and in turn thrown thousands out of their jobs. The administration has gone ahead with extension of restrictions when other places in the country with far worse situation are opening up. And this too after just two months of lockdown.

The government thus needs to take a hard look at the situation. It is time therefore that the administration revisits the restrictions and eases them considerably to let the people return to businesses. What it can focus on instead is to strictly enforce the social distancing norms in public. And it can do so, considering the smaller population of Kashmir makes the infections more manageable than the densely populated states across India. At the same time, there’s a need for random retesting of the people declared Covid-19 positive  in recent past, so that the true extent of the faulty testing, if any, is known.

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