India reported 78,761 new coronavirus infections in a single day yesterday (30 Aug), setting a new world record while it continues to open its economy.
It was the fourth consecutive day that India has registered more than 75,000 infections.
With a population of 1.4 billion people, India is the third most infected nation in the world, behind the United States and Brazil, with 3.5 million cases and more than 63,000 deaths.
The virus is said to have spread further from India’s biggest cities to its vast hinterland, where most of the population lives and health infrastructure is mostly archaic.
India’s COVID-19 tests like ‘flipping a coin’
India in late June started to use quick antigen tests to ramp up detection. But the tests, which can report false negatives as much 50% of the time, threaten to obscure the true picture of its outbreak, further challenging containment efforts.
The World Health Organization’s guidance has been to use the more accurate PCR tests, which cost more than the antigen tests.
The reliance on these ineffective antigen tests casts further doubt on the ability of Indian government to stem the epidemic. It may also mean the falling case numbers seen in its big cities could be due to false negatives, raising questions over whether infection is truly being curbed.
Worse, people who are tested false negatives may think that they do not carry the virus when they actually do. These rapid tests could then be letting some infected people return freely to the community, spreading the pathogen to even more people.
Most other countries use the more accurate PCR tests which actually detect the genetic material of the virus.
“If the rapid antigen tests are only 50% sensitive compared to PCR tests and there is a very high prevalence of community transmission then they are not very good test,” said Peter Collignon, a professor of clinical medicine at the Australian National University Medical School. “Flipping a coin might almost be as good.”
Majority of imported COVID-19 cases comes from India
Meanwhile, Singapore continues to allow people from India to come to Singapore.
According to Straits Times, there were 239 imported cases of COVID-19 into Singapore between Jun 18 to Aug 19. Of these cases, the majority (157 or 66%) comes from India. Many of them are work pass or dependant’s pass holders returning back to Singapore.