Delhi is getting ready for a rush of testing once it receives the Rapid Testing Kits (RTKs) being distributed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) — as many as 20,000 tests within five days and 60,000 before the end of the month — provided it gets enough kits.
The numbers will significantly improve Delhi’s record on testing ; the city-state currently tests 930 per million population compared to a national average of 220. In terms of tests per million, it is ranked at the top in the country, with the only regions doing better are those with roughly a tenth of the capital’s population.
The Delhi government has said it will focus its testing efforts on the containment zones, of which there are 68 in the city. Delhi officials said the government is awaiting a response from ICMR on the number of RTKs it will get. “The centre has committed to providing 50,000 RTKs for Delhi,” said an official in the chief minister’s office (CMO), asking not to be named.
On Thursday, India received a batch of 550,000 RTKs from China, after two missed deadlines.
“We are working on the details pertaining to allotment and logistics. The kits will be sent to our regional depots first and then it will be distributed to states taking into consideration several factors such as the scale of the outbreak, demand for kits stated by the states and current availability of RT-PCR kits in their inventory among others,” a senior ICMR official said on condition of anonymity. RT-PCR is short for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, a laboratory testing technique.
Even though health ministry experts have reiterated that RTKs are not meant for diagnosis but should ideally be used for surveillance purposes to establish trends, and suggested they be used in areas where there are less or no cases, many states, including Delhi, are looking at using rapid kits for conducting aggressive testing along with RT-PCR around hot spots. “States can take a call on how and where they want to deploy these kits since health is a state subject, as long as the ICMR testing guidelines are followed,” said a senior health ministry official.
As of Friday, Delhi accounted for 12% of the 14,350 cases in India.
Delhi, meanwhile, has also placed an order for 50,000 moreRTKs through ICMR-approved vendors, but those are yet to arrive (they too are being imported from China). Several other state governments have also placed orders with Chinese suppliers even as Beijing has tightened export norms to ensure quality.
Unlike the RT-PCR test that detects the virus’s genetic material (RNA) in throat swabs to diagnose a current Covid-19 infection, rapid tests detect antibodies in the blood and indicate if a person has been infected in the past and has developed immunity to the virus. It can show results within 30 minutes, experts said. Experts recommend their use to assess the extent to which a population has been exposed to the virus.
According to a senior official in the state health department, on March 28, a five-member committee of doctors formed by the Delhi government conveyed to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal the importance of scaling up tests and adopting random testing models in hot spots. Delhi was yet to notify any containment zones at the time. The chief minister asked the committee to come back with numbers, taking into consideration the shortage of kits.
“After a few review meetings, the committee suggested that around 60,000 tests should be done by the end of April. It was a flexible estimation based on the projected rate of the outbreak and other inter-related factors. The chief minister agreed,” added the senior official who asked not to be named. “But to scale up the testing drive, the government will need rapid antibody test kits.”
As per the plan, 20,000 tests are supposed to be done within five days of receiving the kits, the official said.
“Testing will be scaled up and the focus will be on containment areas as per guidelines of the Union health ministry,” Delhi’s chief secretary Vijay Dev said.
Delhi’s containment zones range from single buildings to entire neighbourhoods.
“Once the testing is scaled up, the government can go beyond contacts of Covid-19 patients to cover within the containment areas all individuals with serious acute respiratory illnesses and cold, cough and flu-like symptoms for a proper assessment of the burden of the disease,” said Jugal Kishore, the head of community medicine department in Safdarjung Hospital – one of the medical institutes that has been asked by the Delhi government to lead the testing exercise.
Until now, the tests have largely been restricted to healthcare workers exposed to patients and contacts of those infected.
The government is yet to take a call on whether it will experiment with random tests, which will also take into account asymptomatic individuals.
On Thursday, Kejriwal clarified that all individuals residing inside a containment zone will not be tested. For now, the tests are required only for the contacts of the patients and symptomatic individuals who reside in the containment zones.
This article has been taken from Syndicated News via RSS Feed, DelhiCapital has not made any changes or alterations while publishing this news. Original News Source – Hindustan Times