India administers lowest number of Covid-19 tests in a month

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample from a woman at a testing center in Srinagar,on Sept 15, 2021.
A health worker takes a nasal swab sample from a woman at a testing center in Srinagar,on Sept 15, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - India conducted the lowest number of daily Covid-19 tests since mid-August on Sunday (Sept 19), but the health ministry urged local governments not to let their guard down during the September to November festival season.

States and federally controlled territories carried out 1.18 million tests on Sunday, government data showed on Monday, down from 1.56 million on Saturday and against a capacity of more than two million.

It comes as most states dropped compulsory testing for fully vaccinated travellers in recent weeks as they try to boost their economies by making it easier for people to commute.

New Covid-19 infections, meanwhile, have plateaued at around 30,000 a day as vaccinations surged but some health experts say this could also been down to reduced testing.

The federal health ministry urged states and federally controlled territories on Saturday to step up testing, warning that the festival season could lead to another spike in infections. Local governments are responsible for local-level health policies in the country, as per the Indian Constitution.

After a meeting with state officials on Saturday, the health ministry said that there was "no room for any complacency" and that the local authorities should urgently augment hospital infrastructure, oxygen supply, ambulance services and build up buffer stocks of critical drugs.

India faced the world's worst explosion of Covid-19 cases and deaths between April and May when its hospitals ran out beds, oxygen and drugs. Overall, it has reported the most number of infections after the United States.

Some 64 per cent of India's adult population have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and 22 per cent two doses.

The health ministry aims to have administered at least one vaccine dose to nearly all of India's 944 million adults by next month. So far, at least one dose has been given to 604 million adults.

On Monday, India reported 30,256 new Covid-19 infections and 295 deaths, taking the total caseload to 33.48 million and death toll to 445,133.