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COVID-19: Karnataka govt to allow pooled testing in areas with low positivity rate

A pooled sample method is where multiple swab samples are put together and tested using a single RT-PCR test kit.

The Karnataka government in order to cut costs has decided to carry out pooled testing in select areas at a tauka level of the state both in urban and rural areas wherever the positivity rate is less than 5%. To this effect, a circular was issued by Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare Services, Pankajkumar Pandey on Thursday. This circular is applicable for tests done by the government and not private facilities.

A pooled sample method is where multiple swab samples are put together and tested using a single RT PCR test kit. If the test results of all samples are negative, it can be concluded that all the people are negative for COVID-19. However, if the pooled sample returns as positive, everyone who is part of this sample has to be tested again individually. This method is a standard measure for randomised mass tests.

The circular said. “In view of high positivity noticed after unlocking announced by Government of India, the COVID-19 samples are being tested individually through RT-PCR. However, in last few weeks, the positivity in the state has dropped from 14% to 7%. This is due to breaking of chain in disease transmission & better surveillance measures including ramped up testing. Hence, in order to optimize the RT-PCR testing, it is instructed to pool the samples (sample size-5 samples/pool) and test the same in pools. Based on the result of the sample pool, further action should be taken (viz. if positive, individual samples should be tested while if negative, all are negative) It should be noted that the pooling of the samples for diagnostic purposes is permitted only in talukas, which report a test positivity rate of <5%.”

It added that these pooled testing won’t be done in areas where the positivity rate is higher than 5%. However, the circular said that the department won’t reduce the number of tests assigned to each district.This 5% positivity rate mark will be taken into account for the basis of the results of the last 7 days.

At a district level, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Shivamogga, Gadag, Ramanagara and Bidar are the only four districts in the state to report a positivity rate of less than 4% for the last 7 days.

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