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Maharashtra detected 18,390 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, taking its tally to 12,42,770. An additional 392 people succumbed to the disease; the toll now stands at 33,407. Of the state’s total Covid-19 cases, 2,72,410 patients are under treatment, while 9,36,554 have recovered. With 1,628 Covid-19 cases and 50 deaths on the same day, Mumbai’s tally rose to 1,87,904 with 8,555 fatalities. Pune added 1,414 cases, taking its count to 1,44,265. With 42 deaths, Pune’s toll increased to 3,303.

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As the pandemic moves away from Maharashtra’s urban centres, rural areas are struggling to cope as cases surge. At 4.02 lakh cases, rural regions now make up 34.4 per cent of the state’s numbers. Hospitals and healthcare centres are lacking facilities like ICU beds and oxygen beds to treat patients.

Meanwhile, India’s total caseload crossed 56 lakh on Wednesday after the country detected 83,347 new cases. The death toll rose to 90,020 after 1,085 people succumbed to the disease. The fatality rate is now 1.59 per cent. Over 45 lakh have recovered, taking the recovery rate to 81.25 per cent. More than 9.68 lakh patients are being treated for the disease, which is 17.15 per cent of the caseload.

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12.42 lakh Covid-19 cases, 33,407 deaths across state; rural areas struggle to cope with pandemic; heavy rains likely in Mumbai, Thane today.

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Currently, of daily 90,000 tests Maharashtra is conducting, RT-PCR contributes to two-third (50,000) and rapid antigen tests accounts for one-third. State plans to notch up from 90,000 to 1.50 lakh tests per day in a few days. For that, half of tests will have to be rapid antigen as capacity for RT-PCR is 80,000 in 166 laboratories.

A shortage of testing kits has also put pressure on RT-PCR tests in multiple districts. In Beed, which can test 1,200 samples each day, a shortage of kits has forced the district to test only 200 samples per day and rely on rapid antigen for remaining samples. “The shortage has been since the last 20 days. ICMR is slowly stopping supply of kits, and the state is procuring on its own. We have asked state authority for kits,” a district health official said.

Medical Education Secretary Saurabh Vijay, however, said the state has stock for a month. “There is no shortage of testing kits. If a district exceeds its capacity, samples can be sent to the adjoining district. We have asked labs to have a turn around time of 24 hours for the report,” he said.

RT-PCR is considered the gold standard for Covid-19 testing, while antigen test has more scope for false negatives even if a person is Covid-19 positive. If a symptomatic person tests negative for Covid-19 through rapid antigen, a RT-PCR is recommended but in several cases a second test is not conducted. Inspired by Karnataka, the public health department has issued a notification to take two swabs instead of one from symptomatic patients, and process it for RT-PCR immediately if the antigen test comes negative.

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