Trump Says US, India Lead in COVID-19 Testing, Facts Say Otherwise

Trump’s COVID-10 testing numbers don’t provide the full story.

3 min read
Trump’s COVID-10 testing numbers don’t provide the full story.

On Tuesday, 21 July, US President Donald Trump stated that the nation was “leading the world” in terms of COVID-19 testing, but the data available in the public domain doesn’t quite back Trump’s claims.

While touting the number of tests done in the US, Trump also added that India ranked second in testing.

“Second country is India with 12 million (tests). Then you have seven million, six million, and four million. I think that we are doing a tremendous amount of testing.”
Donald Trump, US President

But none of the claims add up. Here’s a look at the numbers to understand where the two countries stand.


Does US Have the Highest Number of Tests?

According to Statista, an international data provider site, the highest number of tests conducted in any country remains in China at around 90.4 million, followed by US, with 48 million, as of 20 July.

Russia follows with 25 million while India is at 14 million.

On 21 July, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that the country had indeed crossed the 50 million mark in terms of the number of tests conducted.

While the US may be number 2 in terms of total tests conducted so far, Trump's statement is still misleading as there are several factors to consider such as the population density and confirmed cases in the management of a COVID crisis.

What Do the Worldwide Numbers Say?

A standard form of measurement allows one to compare the performance of different countries across the world. Such comprehensive analysis of the COVID-19 testing can be found on the Our World In Data (OWID) website.

OWID relies on a team of researchers that source their data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as well as official authorities like Indian Council of Medical Research, and CDC (US) to study the numbers.

According to OWID, so far, US is lagging behind UAE, Denmark, Iceland and Russia in the total number of tests conducted per 1000 population. Compensating for the population difference between countries by measuring tests per 1000 allows for a more fruitful comparison.

UAE has conducted 458.64 tests per 1000, followed by Denmark at 226.12 tests per 1000. USA is at 138.17, while India lags far behind at just 9.99 tests per 1000.

Trump Says US, India Lead in COVID-19 Testing, Facts Say Otherwise
(Photo: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

Even for the number of daily tests conducted per 1000, UAE stands at 4.63 while USA stands at 2.35. India is only at 0.23, far behind countries like Russia, UK and South Africa.

Trump Says US, India Lead in COVID-19 Testing, Facts Say Otherwise
(Photo: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

Arguably just the number of tests conducted is not a valid measure of taking the “lead” in controlling the COVID crisis. In order to monitor the pandemic, the number of cases, tests conducted and the percentage of positive tests in relation to the country's population must be studied.

These markers also contribute to an effective comparison between countries.

Success stories of countries like New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan and South Korea, with different population and testing strategies, are testament to the fact that the number of tests conducted is an inefficient marker of a country's management of the crisis.

In light of the above presented numbers, it is far from true that the US followed by India is testing the highest number of COVID-19 patients. While it is true that US had ramped up its testing, to say that it is outperforming every country is false and not supported by data.

(Note: OWID focuses mainly on PCR tests (antibodies count), however the data can have discrepancies and include non-PCR tests also. The site is updated daily.)

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