Lessons of high sero positivity in various Indian cities

For some commentators the higher the sero positivity being reported from different cities in India, the more encouraging it is. The latest on this front is that in the one month period between the first and second rounds of sero surveillance in Delhi, the prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies has gone up from 23.5% to 29.1% of the population.

Meanwhile in Hyderabad a study of sewage/ wastewater samples has suggested that about 600,000 people have been infected with Covid-19 in the last 35 days in contrast to the 95,700 positive cases reported across the whole of Telangana as of Wednesday, with Hyderabad accounting for 50-60% of these cases.

Uneven spread: Sero variation from 16% to 33% in Delhi

The real takeaway of such data, with even higher sero positivity reported from parts of Mumbai and Pune, is the extent to which the regular testing process is missing infections.  In other words, despite a considerable nationwide increase in the number of tests, India is still far short of optimal testing levels. The second Delhi survey for example suggests that 70% of the population is still vulnerable and this proportion will be significantly higher in most of the country, where the infection started gaining momentum only as it started losing momentum in Delhi.

In faraway America the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in his acceptance speech at the party’s convention today: “We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids safely back to school, we will never have our lives back, until we deal with this virus.” This is no less true of India. So for now this is the most important thing to consider: Where the virus has waned why has it waned? The only answer is aggressive testing – accompanied by companion measures like isolation, good treatment and mask wearing.

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