Bengal must conduct a minimum of 40,000 to 50,000 Covid-19 confirmatory tests every day in order to bring down the positivity rate below five per cent otherwise it will be little difficult to control the Covid pandemic in the state.

This expression came from none other than Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, senior general medicine expert and a member of the Global Advisory Board (GAB) formed by Mamata Banerjee government to guide the latter on how to fight the pandemic ravaging Bengal since the end of March.

The GAB also comprises several other experts like Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and hepatologist Dr Abhijit Chowdhury attached with SSKM Hospital.

The Union health ministry on 21 August had claimed that India had been conducting 580 tests per day per million population, while Bengal remained far behind at 365 tests, and figured in the bottom five states in terms of testing per day.

Expressing concern over the low number of tests in the state Dr Mukherjee told The Statesman today, “Expert committee will conduct its 20th meeting next week with the chief minister to discuss several issues at the state secretariat Nabanna where we will advise the government to ramp up the number of tests as much as possible.”

“In our state, around 20,000 to 25,000 tests are being done daily in different laboratories. This figure will have to be doubled to control the Covid pandemic otherwise coronavirus infections will spread rapidly,” he said.

“Our focus will be on how to bring down the infectivity rate below five per cent and the mortality rate below one per cent. Now, the mortality rate is within two per cent and the rate of recovery is also on the upswing,” he added. The state is lagging behind by around 8,000 tests per million from the national average of 27,000.

A senior official of the Union health ministry based in Kolkata felt that Assam and Odisha with much lower population than Bengal are testing two to three times higher at 59,348 per million population and 34,000, respectively, according to the states’ data.

Bihar, which has almost the same population as Bengal, is testing at 28,000 per million population.

But the state health department officials at Swasthya Bhaban said the testing figures have gone up in the state from what it was earlier in JulyAugust.

Requesting anonymity an official in the state public health wing said that Covid19 confirmatory tests are being done in 70 laboratories approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) under the health ministry.

The state government is also considering setting up more laboratories in the city and districts so that more tests can be done in terms of testing of total samples too, he added.