The Union government on Tuesday expressed concern about the decrease in Covid-19 testing in many states and Union Territories, and called for ramping up the number of tests.

Additional Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Arti Ahuja made the statement in a letter to all states. The official said that it is “incumbent upon all states/UTs to enhance testing” in order to effectively track the spread of the pandemic.

Testing is a key component of the country’s framework to deal with Covid-19, the health ministry told states. “However, it is seen from the data available on the ICMR portal that testing has declined in many States and Union Territories,” it noted.

Ahuja said that as per the strategy issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research, all those who are symptomatic, and all at-risk contacts of laboratory confirmed cases are to be tested for Covid-19.

The Union health ministry said that testing is important for identifying new clusters of cases and taking containment measures. It noted that it is also important from the point of view of reduction in mortality and morbidity.

“Progression of disease to a severe category can be averted by strategic testing of those who are at high risk and more vulnerable, as well as in areas where the spread is likely to be higher,” Ahuja said. “I am sure you will pay attention to this aspect immediately and increase testing in a strategic manner...”

On Monday, Delhi and Mumbai reported declines in Covid-19 cases, but the dip was seen when both cities conducted fewer tests.

However, the Union health ministry’s figures on Tuesday morning showed that the nationwide test positivity rate has reduced to 14.43% from 19.65% a day earlier.

On January 5, the ministry issued revised guidelines, which stated that asymptomatic contacts of coronavirus-positive individuals do not need to get tested and can only monitor their health in home quarantine.

Also, patients with mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 infection can end home isolation after at least seven days have passed since testing positive, if there has been no fever for three successive days. They also do not need to undergo another test for Covid-19 once the home isolation period is over.

India on Tuesday recorded 2,38,018 new coronavirus cases, taking the infection count to 3,76,18,271 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. With 310 deaths, the toll climbed to 4,86,761.