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Private labs record 3x positive COVID-19 cases even as government labs lead in testing: Report

The private sector accounts for 30 percent of India’s testing facilities and is considered to be pitching in less than expected in tackling COVID-19

May 27, 2020 / 12:23 PM IST
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Representative Image

Around 182 private laboratories testing for coronavirus in the country have recorded a 16-17 percent test positivity rate, internal assessments by the government have found.

This is nearly three times the 5-6 percent test positivity rate recorded by 430 government laboratories, according to an Economic Times report.

Test positivity rate is the proportion of administered tests that conclude the subject has the disease being tested for.

The assessment found three major considerations for the gap in positivity rate between private and government testing centres – location, level of symptoms and testing approach, according to the ET report.

Most private labs are located in cities and urban areas, accounting for 30 percent of India’s testing facilities – less than a third of the country’s total capability. While widespread domestic network means government facilities are catering to the semi-urban and rural masses.

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As a disease brought in from abroad by the affluent class in metros, the cases are concentrated within the demography – which means that private labs, which cater to this clientele recorded a higher positive rate, the report noted.

Government labs are also testing a “diverse range of samples” given that they have a wider area to work with.

Testing approach & level of symptoms

Another factor is that since testing at private labs is for a fee, many come in voluntarily and only if they suspect having contracted the virus – which is when the symptoms are noticeable. While the government centres are testing those with mild symptoms and asymptomatic individuals as well, it added.

Many states have also undertaken door-to-door testing in troubled areas, while private labs are restricted to conduct tests within a limited area.

“Despite the cost differential and a non-aggressive testing strategy, the private lab network indicates high positivity of COVID-19 cases. It is an urban disease that came from foreign shores and there is a clear propensity of highly mobile people contracting it. So, you have private labs actually reporting a far bigger number of positive cases than the more extensive government network,” a senior official told the paper.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

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first published: May 27, 2020 12:12 pm