Chuadanga records 100% Covid-19 positivity rate.
This headline from today can easily send alarm bells ringing for any reader who comes across it.
As disturbing as the statistic is, it presents a rather problematic narrative, one that eschews other far more important indicators.
There is a problem with positivity rates.
Looking at Chuadanga's recent numbers, one thing sticks out: to get that 100% positivity rate, only 41 samples were tested.
A 2016 consensus puts the population of the district at 1,237,000.
What this means is that, for today, around 0.00331% of the population have tested positive for Covid-19. The number is negligible and can be read in many different ways.
The 100% rate, even if it were to fall, does, however, merit one urgent measure: surge testing.
Surge testing is increased testing (including door-to-door testing in some areas) and enhanced contact tracing in specific locations.
It also involves testing of people who do not have any symptoms of Covid-19.
A good example of the effectiveness of surge testing can be found in Bedford, a small town in England.
Bedford had reported 202 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 22 May, according to a BBC report. It was said to have the highest infection rate in the country at the time.
But by 11 June, the rate fell to 151 cases per 100,000, making it the 21st worst-affected area.
Authorities say surge testing and vaccinations were among the reasons for a fall in the rate.
Although mass vaccinations for Bangladesh is still some ways away, surge testing may present a clearer picture of the ground reality.
For such testing, deploying mobile units to areas affected is an urgent need.
According to data from the DGHS website, there are only four testing centres in all of Khulna division. Three of those are located in Khulna and one in Satkhira.
What this means is that for a person in Chuadanga to get tested, they would have to travel all the way to Satkhira or Khulna. The journey would take around four hours. Those with less severe symptoms are unlikely to make such a trip.
But those who do go to the centres are more likely to have Covid-19, hence skewing the data.
This isn't the first anomaly of its kind. Looking through DGHS data, it's evident that whenever tests are low, case rates are high, giving an incomplete and often sensationalist view of things.
An exceptional example of this is one day from Pabna when news reports focused on how the positivity rate there had quadrupled in 24 hours.
The DGHS graph clearly showed that this massive jump coincided with very low testing numbers.
Even for a layman, the numbers do speak for themselves.
Whenever we see a rise in such positivity rates, calls come for ensuring a strict lockdown.
As the one seen now, isolating the capital from the rest of the country means depriving the population of urgent healthcare often not available in the districts.
If the data is to be believed, then Covid-19 surges are following a certain pattern and a lull may be seen soon.
During this period, the government should prepare itself for surge-testing, the one proven method of painting an accurate picture of the scenario.
If not, we will back to ineffective lockdowns next year as well, and the Dhaka-exceptionalism will continue unabated.