Experts warn of risks after India experiences rapid COVID-19 home testing

NEW DELHI (AP), -- The Indian government sent a letter to all states urging them to encourage COVID-19 home testing, particularly for those who are suffering from symptoms. This was to help reduce strain on local health systems.

Experts warn of risks after India experiences rapid COVID-19 home testing

Experts warn of risks after India experiences rapid COVID-19 home testing


NEW DELHI (AP), -- The Indian government sent a letter to all states urging them to encourage COVID-19 home testing, particularly for those who are suffering from symptoms. This was to help reduce strain on local health systems.


Last year, hospitals and testing laboratories were overwhelmed by the number of cases that resulted from the delta-driven surge. Last month saw a spike in new infections caused by the omicron variant. This led to an increase in the number of Indians testing at home.


Around 200,000 people submitted their test results to India's health agency in the first 20 days. This is a 66-fold increase over 2021. It appears that the strategy worked. The strategy apparently worked. Those who tested positive for a speedier, but less accurate, diagnosis were instructed to self-isolate at their home. This allowed hospital beds to be available to the most vulnerable.


Experts believe this number is only a small fraction of the actual tests that were used. Many people are not sharing their results with authorities despite rules that require them to do so. Many are not sharing their results with authorities, despite the fact that testing data in India is already inconsistent. This could lead to future clusters going unnoticed. Maharashtra's state health official, Dr. Pradeep Vyas, recently asked all users to submit their results. He also warned that there were still people in need of hospital care, as tests can't distinguish between the omicron variant and the more deadly delta variant.


The state's pharmacists have been keeping track of home test buyers since January. This is not the case in all Indian cities.


K Srinath Reddy (president of the Public Health Foundation of India), said that only 20% of home-test users are reporting the virus. He also stated that all test results should be reported to authorities so they can track down the source.


He said, "If you don't report it, your sample cannot be sent for genomic analyses and you might miss tracking clusters or variants."


Interviews with The Associated Press revealed that several New Delhi residents admitted to having tested positive with home tests, but they didn't share the results with authorities.


The highly contagious Omicron variant is still being spread throughout Asia. More countries are now making a delicate tradeoff between speed and accuracy, using the quick home tests to ensure that patients don't flood the hospitals.


Officials in South Korea announced Wednesday that free coronavirus rapid testing kits will be made available to kindergartens, elementary schools, and senior welfare centers across the country starting next week. This is after a record-breaking wave of omicron infection. Experts warn that rapid tests are not reliable in detecting early omicron infection. Authorities have been shifting away from PCR-based testing strategies. You can purchase at-home tests at convenience stores and pharmacies, or you can take them at the public health offices or testing stations for free. Anyone with positive results will be given a PCR test.


Indian officials are now relying upon a central database that allows people to upload test results via a mobile app. MyLab is the first company to be approved for COVID-19's home test. It produces 500,000 tests each day. Saurabh Gupta (head of strategy at MyLab) said that sales have increased tenfold over the last quarter. Eight home tests have been approved by India so far. They range in price from $2 to $33.


Experts say that home tests are less accurate than lab-run PCR tests. They also have a greater chance of reporting false positives.


Parul Saxena is a New Delhi housewife who took a home test that came back negative. However, her body ache and fever continued, so she went to a PCR test. This confirmed what she had felt all along: she was positive for COVID-19.


Questions sent by email to India's Health Ministry were not answered.


Home tests can be more difficult to adjust, which is a concern as viruses evolve. Vineeta Bal, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, stated that while both lab and home tests can be affected by a virus evolution, rapid tests may not detect the new variant.


The devastating delta surge last year and the sharp rise in omicron infection to begin 2022 have caused cases in India to stabilize. Many cities are now reopening schools, restaurants and work places. India had 30,757 cases and 541 deaths on Thursday -- a decrease from the high of more than 300,000 cases in October. Experts warn that India was missing cases, just like other countries, even before home testing.


Some say that it is unnecessary for all positive cases be reported to authorities. Officials can continue to study how the virus spreads through random sampling, according to Dr. Jacob John. He studies viruses at Vellore's Christian Medical College, which is located in southern India.


Reddy, a public health expert, challenged the value of case counts at this stage in the pandemic in India.


He said, "Right now this isn't going to be the most important priority. The important thing is making sure that there are enough healthcare facilities for people who are very sick."


Ashley St. John, an associate Professor at the Duke NUS Medical School, Singapore, agreed that other factors are better.


She stated that "I believe our concern about having accurate data on positive cases numbers has decreased as vaccination rates have increased." We know that vaccines can be used to detect the presence of severe diseases or symptoms in many people who have been vaccinated. We have accepted that the virus is endemic, and therefore cannot be tracked in everyone.

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