Delay in RT-PCR results causing Covid spread

Time taken to get results has hit hospital admissions; experts underscore need to conduct rapid antigen tests

Published: 07th May 2021 06:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th May 2021 06:21 AM   |  A+A-

People follow social distancing as they wait for Covid vaccination at the General Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. The Covid vaccination resumed at the centre on Thursday | Vincent Pulickal

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when more than one out of every four persons tested is found to be Covid positive, the inordinate delay in getting the result of RT-PCR tests is posing serious problems to containment strategies. According to a source, the positive cases announced on a particular day were from the tests carried out at least six days earlier. “People, who become Covid positive, come to know about their result much later. Though we advise them to isolate themselves, this  is rarely followed. The undue delay is creating problems for the containment strategies,” said a health official. 

The delay in getting the results has affected some of the hospital admissions, where the patients were allowed admission in emergency situation. But, they were found to be Covid positive when the test results came later, he said. The Test Positivity Rate (TPR) on Tuesday was 26.08 per cent, when 1,42,588 were tested. 

Experts have been stressing the need to conduct Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) that can produce faster results. “The state had done better in identifying positive cases faster using antigen tests. But the shift to RT-PCR has resulted in the spread of infection,” said  Anish T S, assistant professor, department of community medicine, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram. He blamed the directions of ICMR and the central government for the shift in testing strategies based on RT-PCR. 

Health experts underscored the need to conduct the maximum number of tests to identify the maximum number of infected cases. According to them, a high TPR also indicated that a lot of infected people are not being tested. However, the numbers could be increased only by increasing the number of antigen tests, said the officer. The state announced the results of 47,660 RT-PCR tests and 92,176 antigen tests on Tuesday. 

But, widespread antigen testing had also drawn criticism over the accuracy of results. “The drawback of antigen test is that it fails to detect the infection in an asymptomatic person. So we cannot rely on it too much. We can change the strategy to use antigen on symptomatic and RT-PCR among the rest,” said Sreekumar RC, head of Indian Medical Association (IMA) research cell. A study found that unwarranted use of RT-PCR as a routine test will detect people who are non-infectious and will send such people to isolation.

As many as 19 government hospitals will be provided with Covid  vaccines, District Collector Navjot Khosa has said. Covaxin doses would  be provided at Fort Taluk Hospital and Coastal Specialty Hospital at  Valiyathura while Covishield will be given to the remaining 17  hospitals. Strict compliance with Covid protocol has to be followed at the  vaccination centres. Those arriving for the vaccination must wear double  masks and maintain at least a 2-metre distance from each other.  Those who took the first dose in the private hospital should take the second dose from the nearest government hospital. The registration slot  for vaccination will be open every day from 3 pm.  20 per cent of shots will be given through  online registration while the rest of 80 per cent is reserved for spot  registration for the second dose.

The animal husbandry department has arranged a telemedicine facility for farmers who rear domestic animals and birds. As part of this, a district-level call center which will function from 8am to 1pm has been set up. Farmers were urged to make use of the facility in the wake of restrictions imposed on the movement of people in connection with the rising Covid cases. The call center numbers are:  Thiruvananthapuram 0471 2302643, Kollam 0474 2795076, Pathanamthitta 0468 2270908, Alappuzha 0477 2252635, Kottayam 0481 2564623, Idukki 0486 2223878, Ernakulam 0484 2351264, Thrissur 0487 2440232, Palakkad 9447303310, Malappuram 0483 2734815, Kozhikode 0495 2368349, Wayanad 0493 6202729, Kannur 0497 2700184, Kasaragod 0499 4224624.


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