1 million tested for Covid in India; 10k recover
The number of people tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India crossed a million on Saturday, up from 38,914 on April 1, which takes the number of tests to almost 770 per million of the population. And the number of recoveries crossed 10,000.
On Friday, India tested 74,507 samples, of which around 85% of the tests were done at government labs using the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), which is the only diagnostic test for Covid-19 approved by the World Health Organization.
‘We have made a quantum jump in testing. We plan to ramp it up further to move towards a situation where we can test everyone who needs it.
The number of labs doing Covid-19 tests has gone up, with 406 labs — of which 105 are private ones — now testing for Covid-19 across states,’ said C K Mishra, secretary, environment, and co-chair of the PM’s high-level committee on preparedness for a medical emergency.
The health ministry expects testing to cross 100,000 tests a day next week, up from 5,580 a day on April 1.
‘Positivity remains low except for the 20 cities, which are still a cause of concern as the Covid-19 curve doesn’t appear to be flattening there. The strategy for the future will be ramping up surveillance in these cities so we test every case of influenza-like illness to inform the containment response,’ said a health ministry official who asked not to be named
RT-PCR is used for qualitative detection of genetic material called nucleic acid (RNA) from Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and is the most accurate diagnostic test for infection, while other tests, such as rapid antibody tests, are surveillance tools that cannot test for current infection.
Among the 304 government labs, 254 use Real-Time RT PCR systems, 42 use TrueNat machines, and use Gene-Xpert cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test (CBNAAT) for Covid-19. Truenat is a small battery-operated machine that can run 32 to 48 samples and produces results in one hour, while CBNAAT machines are widely available in low-resource rural settings, where it is used to test for tuberculosis.
India has added two more high throughput systems that are capable of running 1,100-1,200 tests in one shift to the existing two in Noida and Bhubhaneshwar. ‘Labs in Noida and Bhubaneshwar already have high-throughput systems, another one has been added to Bangalore, and a new one has arrived, which will be installed in National Centres of Disease Control in Delhi to increase testing capacity further,’ said Mishra.
India has testing kits in stock for another 11-12 days, and the threat of interrupted supply of RNA extraction kits from China is being addressed by domestic suppliers, who now provide 70,000-80,000 kits a day. ‘With local suppliers coming into play, shortages are no longer an overwhelming concern,’ said the health ministry official.
The health ministry has taken steps to address the pendency issue, where labs were taking several days to send back results.
An examination of national showed Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi being identified as the states with the highest pendency. In Delhi, the National Institute of Biologicals in Noida was identified as a bottleneck, with the lab’s capacity to test 1,000-1,100 samples a day being stretched because of the arrival of samples from both Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. It resulted in around 9,000 results being pending, of which close to 5,000 were from Delhi.
‘We asked Delhi to withdraw its samples and send them to private labs for testing, and now the problem is sorted. Delayed data entry in some states is still a challenge, but we are working on that,’ said the health ministry official, who is part of the team coordinating with states.
Public health experts hope more people with symptoms will come forward to get tested following the health ministry order that now allows for home quarantine of mild cases.
‘People are not stupid, no one wants to die. We have to empower them to protect themselves. Japan now asks people with fever and cough to stay home quarantined and get tested only if the symptoms worsen or don’t go away a week later,’ said Mishra.
According to HT’s dashboard, the number of infections were 39,911 on Saturday night, with 1,319 deaths and 10,758 recoveries.
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