The question that is being asked is “are we testing enough?” The WHO says we aren’t and that’s an indictment which stains India’s response to the deadly Corona pandemic. “Why?” is the counter-question, again for which there is no answer forthcoming other than that India will not “do unnecessary testing”. The next question then is: “Who decides and what decides necessary testing?”

The government has declared that only “suspected cases” will be tested. Oops, that is what the government should review. For, how do you decide which is a suspected case? The early warning-symptoms soon after Wuhan broke in China were that people with fever, coughing and choked nostrils (sneezing) could be Corona struck. But then it emerged that many Corona-infected were not showing any of these symptoms but that testing placed them in the Corona +ive ward!

The WHO’s advice to all countries and country-heads in three words is “test, test and test”. Of course, the Government of India is deaf to the WHO advice. The Modi government, it seems and as it has shown time and again, is prepared to place at risk the Indian population. It happened with demonetization and GST and, now, with Corona. The BJP government at the Centre is quite happy with what it calls “random testing”, even if the word “random” carries with it “definite” and not “random” dangers.

The WHO has said that “you cannot fight fire blind-folded”, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist BJP government are fighting Corona not only blind-folded but are also confident that among all the countries battling the pandemic, India’s will be the model that will succeed. And that without “unnecessary testing!” Forgetting, of course, that random people showing nil Corona virus symptoms but are Corona-infected are confabulating with family, friends and office colleagues to spread the virus, giving rise to sleeping cells of the Corona-hit, ready to strike left, right and centre.

Modi, of course, believes the government advisory asking people to keep hand and mouth and nose and eyes hygiene with “washing, washing and washing” with soap again and again and “social distancing” will do the trick and kill the virus. But what Modi and his government forget is that some of the people who tested positive and have fled “isolation wards” are only a tip of the problem. Imagine how many with negative or positive symptoms must be holed up in nooks and crannies unwilling to come out and present themselves at testing centres, helped by the government’s random-testing policy? The Modi government is taking a clear and present dangerous risk.

In South Korea, the rate of testing has been quite high: 3,692 tests per million as of March 8. Italy tested about 826 people per million. India? Ha! India continues to test only 3 persons per million population. As of 10 am on March 17, 125 Indians tested positive. Of these, a minimum of six are on the loose, hunted by the authorities. It was 110 Covid 19 positive cases on March 16. The 125 on March 17 were found positive from 6815 people tested beginning the end of January. The question that plagues the mind is, what is India’s testing protocol? Who gets tested and who is left out? Also, where are these tests being done (54 labs as of March 17) and is the strategy helping contain the disease?

First question first, if anybody has cold, cough or fever and don’t have a history of travel to currently high-risk Covid 19-hit countries – China, Iran, Italy, France to wit – chances are they will not be tested immediately, “wait and watch.” This is starkly opposed to South Korea’s policy where 12,000 are tested every single day. And mind you, if any country is giving a tough fight to Corona virus, it’s South Korea. India, by contrast, is refusing to listen to the WHO in the belief that “Modi Hai Toh Mumkin Hai”

Tuesday morning (March 17), it emerged, according to several media outlets, that MOS (EAM) V. Murleedharan tested “negative” for coronavirus after he was tested following a visit to a hospital where corona virus struck patients were being quarantined. But that is not relief for Murleedharan; willy-nilly he has to be under “self-quarantine” for the next fortnight, time enough for the virus to incubate if it’s running amok inside V. Murleedharan. For the Modi government, and specifically his ministerial colleagues, things are getting too close for comfort. Will the government now get the entire Modi cabinet and junior ministers tested, not randomly but in an orderly definite manner? One thing is for certain, however, Narendra Modi's "hug-diplomacy" has met an irrevocable Corona-death! Modi will have to self-guarantee his urge to hug ever world leader. (IPA Service)