Sindh to roll out community testing to gauge impact of coronavirus

Seroprevalence studies will be conducted in two Karachi UCs to gauge virus impact

​ Our Correspondent May 02, 2020
Seroprevalence studies will be conducted in two Karachi UCs to gauge virus impact. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: As the pandemic tally in the province soared past 7,000 on Saturday, surpassing that of Punjab, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah ordered community surveillance to gauge the impact and spread of the coronavirus.

In a video statement, the CM, announcing that the province's tally had climbed to 7,102 with the emergence of 427 more cases on Friday, directed relevant authorities to carry out seroprevalence studies as part of the planned community surveillance.

Seroprevalence refers to the level of a pathogen in a population, as measured in blood serum. With results often presented as the percentage of total specimens tested or as the ratio of positive cases among every 100,000 persons, these studies can show how many people have been infected by the virus.

The study will initially be conducted in two union councils (UCs) of Karachi, which has the highest incidence of the coronavirus in the province and also accounts for over a quarter of the nationwide tally. The selected UCs, Kharadar and Kehkashan, are located in the city's South district, many neighbourhoods of which have been identified as Covid-19 hotspots.

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Maintaining that "community surveillance is the need of the hour," the CM said that he had issued directives for the development of a digital assessment mobile application for the purpose.

Assessing the spread

Health department officials will begin random sampling of the residents of these UCs next week. According to officials, Kehkashan has reported fewer cases so far, while several cases have emerged in Kharadar.

"We need to check the differences in the statistics," a district administration official told The Express Tribune, adding that they also wanted to see whether the number of cases in Kehkashan was actually low or if there was just a gap in testing in the locality.

He explained that these two UCs would be part of a pilot seroprevalence study, while community surveillance and similar studies would be carried out in other parts of the province in the next phase. "The results will help the government gauge the extent to which the virus has spread in the community."

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A similar study in California in April, testing people for the presence of coronavirus antibodies in their blood, had revealed a much higher prevalence of the infection than suggested by official figures, finding that one in every 66 people in the county had been infected by the virus at some point. However, some scientists had raised concerns about the accuracy of the tests that had been used.

Pandemic prevalence

On a different note, the CM said that apart from the emergence of 427 new cases, four infection-related deaths were reported in the province on the day, following which the death toll had increased to 122.

Among the newly reported cases, 376 belonged to Karachi, he said.

"This shows that the number of cases is not receding in the city and people need to understand [the gravity of] the situation as well as adopt precautionary measures," he emphasised.

Imparting more information about the situation in the city, he said that of the cases reported on Friday, 131 were detected in South district, 65 in East district, 54 in Korangi, 47 in West district, 46 in Central district and 33 in Malir.

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"Now, we have 1,401 cases in South district, 1,080 in East district, 501 in Korangi, 484 in Malir and 527 in West district," the CM added.

Giving an update on other districts, he said that four new cases were reported in Ghotki, six each in Hyderabad, Larkana and Shaheed Benazirabad, four in Khairpur, five in Sukkur, two in Sanghar and one each in Thatta and Sujawal.

Meanwhile, 46 recovered patients were sent home, bringing the number of recoveries in Sindh to 1,341. He added that 380 doctors had been deputed to follow up on recovered patients via telemedicine.

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