It could mean that there are people who have contracted the coronavirus but have not been tested. The positivity rate denotes the percentage of people who have tested positive from the total who have been tested. A high positivity rate can have two implications – that the level of transmission in the community is very high or that there is not enough testing being done. Scientists and researchers state that the rate will be high if the number of positive results is high or if the number of tests is low. For the past few days, Goa’s positivity rate has been high, on certain days the highest in the country, and the State should be asking the questions of whether the level of transmission of the virus is high or whether the number of tests are low.
Goa’s average positivity rate in the first week of May was 48.5 per cent. The State closest to it was Haryana with a positivity rate of 36.1 per cent. While Goa saw its rate increase, Haryana saw it decrease, and most States are currently showing a declining positivity trend. Goa has to study why the rate shot up from 8 per cent at the beginning of April to reach 48.5 per cent (week’s average) just 37 days later. So, what are we looking at? Is it that there are many more people carrying the virus? Or is it that the testing is low. Either way, Goa has to buck up and bring down that positivity rate.
As per studies conducted, a high positivity rate should lead to added restrictions to reduce the transmission among the people. Clearly, Goa misread the rising trend and did not bring in any measures until just recently and now the 14-day curfew that has now been announced. Essentially, Goa has to, on an emergency basis, increase the testing. If the testing is low then there could be infected people moving about in society and unknowingly transmitting the virus to others. One reason for the increase in April could have been this silent transmission that led to the surge putting tremendous pressure on the hospitals and the medical services. To go from a positivity rate of 8 to 44.5 in a span of a month is negligence on the part of the government.
In May last year, World Health Organisation had indicated that the positivity rate should fall below 5 per cent before restrictions on movement are lifted. In early April, with a positivity rate of 8, Goa was already above this figure. Goa has only now imposed restrictions for a period of two weeks. Can the 48.5 per cent positivity rate show a significant decine in 14 days of the curfew that has been imposed to be lifted? As per studies, to lower the positivity rate, the answer is to follow the measures and guidelines that have already passed the test – wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings. On this count, the curfew that has been imposed will help, but the period that will be required to bring down the rate is still uncertain.
But a lowered positivity rate after the restrictions of the curfew, or whenever it comes about, will not imply that the State is safe again. It will only mean that the risk of getting infected is lower. Masking, physical distancing and avoiding crowded areas will still have to continue. The second wave has proved that the coronavirus can return with a vengeance. There are already predictions of a third wave. Goa has to therefore be extra careful and read the signs early to avoid the situation it has currently descended into.