ET Bureau Last Updated: May 18, 2020, 10.16 AM IST

New Delhi: As India moves into Lockdown 4.0, the Centre is preparing for the crucial next two months, when it may see a manifold rise in Covid-19 positive cases. Its latest plan of action is to test 10 million people by July-end, bring on board additional facilities and a specialised protocol for 20 key cities to combat the spread of the virus, as well as ensure that equipment is stockpiled to last till August, sources told ET.

Mumbai, Delhi, Indore, Pune, Bhopal and Chennai will be among the identified 20 cities, as also others where the testing-to-positive confirmation ratio has been high, which will require specialised treatment considering their density and large slum clusters. ET has learnt that the Centre will conduct a comprehensive review of its testing strategy in the first week of June and accordingly decide on the increase, direction and protocol for further testing. The review has been planned ahead of July expected to be a critical month for India’s Covid-19 case trajectory.

Internal governmental assessments are looking at 500,000-700,000 positive cases by July-end and are already gearing up to prepare to handle this scenario. While procurement of health support systems to tackle the virus is currently satisfactory, sources said the county’s health infrastructure will feel the strain if it hits the worst-case scenario — of 800,000 to 1 million positive cases by end of August, along with a significant increase in cases per day.

That will also be the point when the policy will shift from focussed testing to focussed treatment. India currently has over 91,000 Covid-19 positive cases — with nearly 4,000-5,000 cases being added every day. The geographic spread of the virus is also expected to shift towards the East with migrant workers returning — both Bihar and Odisha are already reporting a three-fold increase in cases.

Officials, however, said the outbreak may be contained from spreading into rural areas as returning workers are quarantined before entry to their villages. While West Bengal has finally pushed up testing and is now on a much better footing, there is fresh worry arising on account of Gujarat and Telangana. Both states have seen a decrease in the number of tests conducted, an issue already taken up by the Centre with the two state governments. Maharashtra, with its very high testing rate, still remains worrisome. 

Data as on May 15 suggest that against the 4.3% national average of Testing to Covid-19 Positive Ratio, Maharashtra stood at a worrying 11.9%, Delhi is at 9.0%, Gujarat stands at 7.8%, Chhattisgarh at 6%, Telangana at 5.4%, Madhya Pradesh at 4.9% and West Bengal at 4.6%.

As far as India’s readiness is concerned, the situation is better in terms of PPE, N95 mask requirements and all efforts are on to build a 28-day stockpile instead of the current 15 days.

The country will move from the antibody test plan to the ELISA testing mechanism which will roll out within a fortnight. Plans are also under way to have a molecular diagnostic lab up and running in every medical college of the country.