Pune: Rise in COVID-19 cases may be due to rapid antigen testing

The number of COVID-19 cases in Pune city reached 34,040 after 1,705 people were detected with the infection on July 17

Nearly 2 crore samples have been tested across the country. Photo: PTI

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Pune district of Maharashtra since the last few weeks can be attributed to the use of rapid antigen detection tests, district officials said on Saturday.

Simultaneously, the case recovery rate has gone up to 65 per cent while the mortality rate has fallen to 2.65 per cent, stated a report released by the district health officer on July 17. As per reports, Pune has emerged as a new urban COVID-19 hotspot like Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Pune city reached 34,040 after 1,705 people were detected with the infection on July 17.

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The single-day rise on Friday was more than the number of cases reported in Mumbai.

The death toll in Pune district stood at 917. As per the report, Pune district has 46,283 cases while the number of active cases stood at 15,308. 666 patients are in a critical condition and undergoing treatment at various hospitals. The number of the recovered cases stands at 30,283.

Hospitals located under Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, villages and the Pune Cantonment Board had collected and sent 1,88,066 samples for testing so far, it said.

Civic officials said the surge in number of patients can be attributed to rapid antigen tests being conducted by various laboratories. The Pune civic body had decided to conduct the rapid antigen detection tests for diagnosis of COVID-19 earlier this month, with an objective to reduce burden on labs.

It is a test on swabbed nasal samples that detects antigens (foreign substances that induce an immune response in the body) that are found on or within the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A 10-day lockdown has been imposed in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad township.

The district administration has also enhanced healthcare infrastructure and human resources. The number of labs has been increased from 2 to 25, officials said.

Health infrastructure being enhanced

Pune Zilla Parishad CEO Ayush Prasad told PTI that public and private funds have been used for enhancing health infrastructure.

“We are also hiring medical staff as per the requirement at the taluka level. We have around 91 ambulances (in the district) and have asked gram panchayats to purchase their own ambulances. We have private hospitals on our panel which will provide free medical treatment to patients either via various schemes or through the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF),” he said.

District collector and Disaster Management Authority chairman Naval Kishore Ram said testing and contact tracing has been increased while healthcare infrastructure is being strengthened.

“We have also sent our teams to private hospitals to find out if any asymptomatic patient is occupying bed against the protocol. We are counselling such patients to vacate beds for the needy patients,” he said.

Saurabh Rao, former Pune civic chief and officer on special duty (OSD) at the office of the Pune divisional commissioner, said five officials with the rank of deputy collector have been posted at private hospitals.

“They will ensure that beds are made available for patients and medical services provided as per the orders issued by the government,” he said.

Rao said hospitals have been directed to post details about availability of beds on an online dashboard.

Meanwhile, state deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar has asked officials to follow the “Mumbai pattern” to bring the infection under control. He has asked Mumbai municipal corporation commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal to help the district administration.

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