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Move to get 25,000 rapid test kits hits Chinese wall

The first consignment from a Singapore company is stuck in Hong Kong due to clearance formalities. Kerala plans to approach Centre

Published: 07th April 2020 06:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th April 2020 10:04 AM   |  A+A-

Sample testing devices used in diagnosing the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are checked on a production line as they are prepared to be included in testing kits for shipment at the SD Biosensor bio-diagnostic company near Cheongju, south of Seoul on March 27, 2020. (Photo | AFP)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala's ambitious move to bring one lakh rapid antibody test kits — for widespread tests to prevent community transmission — has hit a Chinese wall. A shipment of 25,000, the first consignment of rapid antibody test kits from a Singapore company, is stuck in a Customs’ queue following newly imposed Chinese clearance formalities. Kerala is now planning to approach the Union Government, seeking to expedite the procedures.

The state had placed orders for one lakh kits with Sensing Self, a Singapore-based company having its factory in China. The company had dispatched the order, but it was held in Hong Kong due to Customs’ formalities. Sources say the clearance procedure could take at least two more days.“As per the information received today, we need to move through the Embassy,” a senior official told TNIE.

 “Only then can we expedite procedures. We will approach the Government of India to expedite clearance, so that they approach the Government of China. We won’t be sending any special aircraft.”The state government hopes to bring it by Air India which operates flights to Hong Kong and Shanghai.

China has laid down new formalities as a lot of Chinese kits have been sent back from countries like Spain and Italy. As this company is based in Singapore, and since the kits have been validated by the Indian Council of Medical Research, they will not face a similar hurdle. But the new formalities will have to be followed.

PCR and antibody tests are the two most common ways to test for coronavirus. The Rapid PCR test is the confirmation test for virus infection. Currently, the state uses real-time PCR tests. The state is now facing a shortage of PCR test kits. Orders have already been placed with three companies, Pune-based MyLabs being one of them.

On April 3, the state received 1,000 rapid RT-PCR kits from Pune, using `57 lakh from Shashi Tharoor’s MP fund. On Monday, 1,000 more were delivered while the final batch of 1,000 is expected to arrive on Wednesday. But these are for PCR tests, not for antibody tests.

As per ICMR guidelines, even if antibody is positive, PCR test has to be done to confirm the presence of virus which causes the infection. Compared to rapid RT-PCR tests, wherein samples of throat or nasal swab are tested, the antibody test is very simple. It can be done with a drop of blood and results would be out soon.

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