Covid deaths in India reach a quarter of a million amid fears PCR tests are giving false negatives

India is currently recording more Covid cases per day than the rest of the world put together, ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner reports

The Covid-19 death toll in India has reached another grim milestone, as more than a quarter of a million have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic.

What is also worrying are the claims that PCR tests are failing to identify large numbers of infected people in the country.

India confirmed 4,205 more coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, setting another daily record.

Its official toll has passed 250,000 but the figures are considered to be a vast undercount due to inadequate testing and records.

Around 370,000 new infections were reported by authorities in the last 24 hours. India now has an overall total of 23 million confirmed cases, the health ministry said.

The World Health Organization says India accounted for half of the global number of cases reported last week. And it is recording more cases per day than the rest of the world put together.

Sister and brother Vineeta and Ashwani Malik are self-isolating in their apartment after losing both of their parents to Covid within 24 hours.

They were convinced their mother and father had coronavirus but the PCR tests kept coming back negative and hospitals refused to give them a bed.

Sister and brother Vineeta and Ashwani Malik have lost both their parents to Covid-19 Credit: ITV News

Vineeta said: "Nobody was able to take him into the hospital. The government guidelines said the report should read positive, it doesn't matter how critical the person is, nobody cared."

The extended family have all developed Covid symptoms but everybody has tested negative.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee , from Apollo Hospital in Delhi, said the numbers of false negatives are a problem: "So many of them this time, people who have been tested and having typical Covid symptoms and not being found positive on the PCR."

Asking if this may be because a new variant is not being detected by tests, he said: "It is possible that a few of the variants may not be picked up. But my first feeling is that it is the timing of the test and it is the way the test is being done."

Meanwhile, a gurdwara has been converted into a temporary hospital providing 400 beds. It will accept anyone with Covid symptoms.

The hospital has only been open for 24 hours and 60 of the beds have already been filled. Doctors fear in the next two to three days, all 400 will be taken.

Covid-19 medical adviser, Dr Harmeet Singh Rehan, said: "If it opens, certainly diseases will spread again and now this is the time when we have to prepare for a third wave also, which people are expecting to come and they are expecting that it's going to be more dangerous than the second wave even."

A gurdwara in India that has been converted into a temporary hospital with 400 beds Credit: ITV News

Authorities have warned that nearly 90% of districts in the country are seeing a high infection rate.

Although daily cases have shown very early signs of flattening, with nearly four million cases still active, the country's health care system remains strained with limited hospital beds, oxygen and medicine.  

India's surge in cases has been attributed to the more contagious variants and government decisions to allow crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies.

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