Mumbai: About one in every 50 tests conducted for COVID-19 in India as of March 25, 2020, have returned positive. In comparison, about a quarter of all tests in Italy, about a sixth in Austria and a tenth in the UK were positive, our analysis of data shows.

This could be due to varying testing criteria in different countries, experts said. As the disease spreads in India, the percentage of tests coming out positive may increase, they said.

India tested 25,254 samples as of 8 p.m. on March 25, of which 581 (2.3%) were positive, according to the latest update from the Indian Council of Medical Research. This proportion is comparable with South Korea's (3%) and higher than Taiwan's (1%).

In comparison, 74,386 of 324,445 tests (23%) in Italy, 6,001 of 35,995 tests (16.7%) in Austria, 65,497 of 484,062 tests (13.5%) in the US and 9,529 of 97,019 tests (10%) in the UK were positive.

Data for the US are from The COVID Tracking Project, an independent project run by journalists with volunteers including scientists, visualisation specialists, designers and project managers. Testing figures cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are incomplete, and therefore, lower.

Comparable figures for China were not available. In the country’s Guangdong province,  0.14% of 320,000 fever screenings tested positive for COVID-10, a February 2020 report by the World Health Organization noted.

More targeted testing in other countries could be a reason for their higher percentages, Anant Bhan, a Pune-based researcher in global health, bioethics and health policy, told IndiaSpend. As the disease spread in India rises, “it is quite probable [that] our numerator might increase as well”, he added.

Further, these numbers can vary as the testing criteria for each country is different, said Rajni Kant, head for research management, policy, planning and coordination cell at the ICMR.

Indian states and union territories that have more testing centres and are testing more samples are reporting higher numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, IndiaSpend reported on March 25, 2020. Further, India is not testing nearly enough to rule out community transmission, we reported on March 19, 2020.

Currently, in addition to people who have travelled internationally in the last 14 days, contacts of confirmed cases, and symptomatic healthcare workers, patients with severe acute respiratory illness (who have fever and cough and/or shortness of breath) and people who have no symptoms but are in direct and high-risk contact with confirmed cases, can get tested.

As of 10.15 a.m. on March 26, 2020, India had reported 649 cases of COVID-19, according to Coronavirus Monitor, a HealthCheck database. While 43 patients (6.6%) have been discharged, 13 (2%) have died since the outbreak began. 

(Jameela Ahmed is a contributor and Shreya Raman is a data analyst with IndiaSpend.)

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.



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