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In Karnataka, patients’ reluctance to get tested for Covid worries doctors, experts

Bengaluru: The government is making efforts to increase Covid tests in the state to minimise spread and detect new variants. However, officials from the Health Department and doctors have expressed concerns over reluctance among patients to take tests.

“Given that it is winter, there are many patients with respiratory illness. However, we have seen that not many of them are open to getting tested and we cannot force them,” a senior official from the department said.

The observation is reflected in a recent survey by LocalCircles, a community social media platform, where close to 74 per cent of the 2,092 respondents said they did not take a Covid test despite having cold, cough, and other Covid-like symptoms.

A majority of the respondents said they were not convinced how helpful the tests could be and said that they “did not see any point in testing”. A few others said it was inconvenient and expensive.

Doctors said the reluctance was higher among youngsters.“Elderly and those who have had a bad Covid experience in the past are open to getting tested. However, many youngsters have not come back with the test report even after I advised them to get tested,” said Dr Neha Mishra, Consultant (Infectious Diseases).

Many patients were concerned about the stigma attached to Covid and refused to get tested. “Many patients said the aftermath of testing positive was worrisome. They did not want to isolate themselves and follow protocol. Also, given that the infections were mild, there was no sense of fear among patients,” said Dr Vandana G, Bengaluru-based general physician.

Dr Neha said a few patients were particularly concerned about work and loss of productivity. “Testing positive would mean patients have to stay away from work,” she said.

Increasing the testing is crucial to understanding the spread of infection and identifying new variants. A few officials from the department also suggested that reaching the target of 5,000 tests a day might get difficult now.

"There is no reason to panic. JN.1 is a subvariant of Omicron virus; other countries have seen that it spreads rapidly. Twenty one cases of JN.1 variant have been detected across the country," said Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao. 

He has told officials to conduct more tests in areas bordering Kerala. He urged people in crowded places to mask up.

(Published 20 December 2023, 20:39 IST)

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