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Explained: why Kashmir doctors’ group thinks that Covid-19 cases are being underreported in Kashmir

With Omicron variant-driven third Covid-19 wave raging in the valley, Doctors Association Kashmir on Friday said the actual number of coronavirus positive cases in the region is higher than what is being reported.

“The official count is an underestimate as many Covid cases go unreported,” said DAK President Dr. Nisar ul Hassan.

The influenza expert said the use of home test kits and rapid antigen test kits has seen a massive jump since the Omicron surge began.

“While many people test positive with these kits, they do not report to the authorities,” he said. “Many people also do not get tested worrying that they will be taken to the Covid-19 camps,” he added.

The DAK President said even though the RT-PCR test is the gold standard for detecting Covid-19 and its variants, a negative test does not exclude the possibility of infection as the test can miss more than 30 percent of positive cases.

“We see many patients who test negative on RT-PCR test, but show CT features consistent with Covid-19, and they are not reported,” he said.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in its new guidelines has waived off testing requirements for many categories including contacts of confirmed Covid-19 positive cases unless they are in the high-risk categories.

Besides, it has also exempted asymptomatic patients undergoing surgical or non-surgical invasive procedures including pregnant women hospitalized for delivery unless warranted or symptoms develop.

“When testing is curtailed, we won’t know the exact burden of the disease in the community,” he said.

General Secretary DAK Dr. Arshad Ali said accurate data is critically important for an appropriate response which holds key to mitigating further disaster. “To deal with the problem, we must understand how bad it is,” he said.

The doctors’ body said poor quality data equals a poor decision which in turn leads to a lost opportunity to improve population health in a crisis. “Without accurate tallies, the response won’t be enough to defeat the outbreak,” the group said.

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