BENGALURU: At a time when Karnataka is facing a high Covid-19 positivity rate, a delay in RT-PCR test reports is affecting isolation of patients and contact tracing, leading to more people contracting the infection, said public health experts.Considered the ‘gold standard’ in testing, RT-PCR results usually arrive in 24-48 hours. “Now, patients are claiming that reports reach them only after three days. In some districts, results arrive after four days. This shouldn’t happen,” said a senior government doctor.
A resident of Austin Town had given swab samples of his two children at a PHC at 11 am on April 2. He isolated them and when he didn’t get a call for two days, he thought they may have tested negative. On the third day, the reports came positive.
“We hear of many such instances from patients. Karnataka conducts almost one lakh tests a day and is expected to increase the number. There could be a delay, but that needs to be rectified,” said Dr C N Manjunath, Director, Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research.“We have received several enquiries on our website, asking when test reports will be out for samples given at Urban Primary Health Centres. In many cases, even after 3-5 days, they did not receive any message or report,” said Ameen-e-Mudassar, educationist and member of Emergency Response Team, a volunteer group that helps people get tested and find beds for free.
Officials from Chitradurga district said the delay of four days was due to non-availability of vehicles at taluk centres. Samples from Nagasamudra, Rampura and Srirampura take more than a day to reach the lab in Chitradurga, and testing takes more time, they said. “District administrations should recruit more technicians. Three vehicles should be provided to bring samples from taluks. This helps in immediate testing and quick results,” said Chitradurga district surveillance officer Dr Tulasi Ranganath.
Public health experts said the sudden surge in cases and mandatory report for many activities has led to a backlog too. “The number of samples being collected has gone up, but the number of microbiologists and technicians remains the same. We haven’t learnt from the first wave,” said an expert.
In Udupi district, results of samples taken from a containment zone for RT-PCR tests take four days to arrive. The delay causes anxiety and stress among those in quarantine. Doctors said till reports arrive, people with symptoms or even primary and secondary contacts of a Covid patient should mask up and isolate themselves.
Minister for Health Dr K Sudhakar said the State government will look into the issue. “Reports usually take two days and a maximum of three days. I will check the districts where there are delays,” he said.
(With inputs from Prakash Samaga/Udupi, G Subash Chandra/Chitradurga)