NEW YORK (Web Desk) – Low testing rates in India, Indonesia and Pakistan have risked leaving them blindfolded about the extent of coronavirus transmission in their countries.
All three nations — which together hold about 25% of the global population — crossed 1,500 cases this week. They have tested the lowest number of residents per million, according to official data for six nations in Asia compiled by Bloomberg.
“Without testing, it’s like moving blindfolded,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general at the World Health Organization, said in a briefing on Monday. He urged nations to increase the ratio to 10 tests for each positive diagnosis, which means India, Indonesia and Pakistan should each have tested at least 15,000 per million.
Calls for more tests are easier said than done, given that officials in countries such as India are struggling to secure foreign-made test kits while red tape is slowing the deployment of locally made ones. The number of tests in India stood at just 66,000 on April 3, far slower than the pace in the U.S and even further behind that of top testing countries like South Korea, sparking speculation that the official tally of infections is underestimating the true size of its outbreak.
If these countries don’t identify and quarantine virus carriers before severe symptoms emerge, they risk overwhelming their healthcare systems that are already poorly equipped.
If extensive testing is done, typically 3%-12% cases are positive, according to WHO. So far, Indonesia is the only nation that falls out of this range with 22% of total tests turning out to be positive. It also has the highest mortality rate at 8.9% of positive cases compared with less than 3% for the rest of the countries.