India needs to scale up COVID-19 testing to contain pandemic: Shaw

Biocon executive chairman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said that India is not testing for COVID-19 at optimal levels.

In the wake of increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw on Thursday said there is a need to scale up testing for coronavirus in order to contain the pandemic.

"We have to make sure that we aggressively test and aggressively contain. I think we have shown that this is possible in at least the corporate world, in many of our campuses, but we need to scale it up," Shaw said at Bloomberg India Economic Forum.

She said some parts of the country are dealing with testing in a better way than other parts of the country but as a whole, it is not at optimal levels and certainly, way below other countries.

"If the active cases start surging, then we simply don't have the capacity to deal with it," she added.

When asked if India has reached the safe place yet, Shaw said we still cannot say that as one day we see the number of infections declining and begin to think that the curve is flattening, but again few days later, there is a surge. "So, I don't think we are in a safe place yet."

"A large number of people are getting infected but certainly, the case fatality rate is reducing, which actually gives me some hope that we are treating better," she said. If we can bring down the death rates to near zero then I think we are in a much safer place than today, she added.

When asked if India is in a better position to handle the pandemic in terms of hospital infrastructure and testing capabilities, Shaw said, "Unfortunately no."

"We simply don't have the capacity to deal with the large numbers of people who might land up in hospitals," she opined.

Talking about distribution of vaccines in India, Shaw said it will be a daunting challenge because the country has such a huge population but India is also fortunate that it has the world's largest vaccine capacity.

India has a unique opportunity of using digital technologies to create the database of vaccination, which is going to be important, she added.

On the need for more stimulus packages, she opined that there is no need for more fiscal stimulus but rather there is a need for easing of existing rules to make it easier for business.