THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Though the government plans to increase the number of tests conducted daily to detect Covid-19 to 15,000 by July 15, the ground reality gives a different picture. The medical community is divided on whether the target could be met as issues like shortage of manpower, lack of infrastructure and limited testing centres will have to be addressed.
“The strategy that the Centre has put forward to contain Covid-19 is ‘test, track and treat’. Considering the high-risk situation the state is dealing with, the rate of testing per day should be increased. Some areas have shown signs of cluster formation. To plug the same, augmenting the sample collection and its testing are the key,” said an officer of the health department. At the same time, officers coordinating the Covid-19 prevention and control programmes state that while sample collection will not be affected with the existing manpower and infrastructure, testing the samples and getting the results could be delayed. In the microbiology department at some medical college hospitals, there is not even a single data entry operator for recording the results.
Indian Medical Association state secretary Dr P Gopikumar said, “Testing is inadequate in the state. Even if we raise it to 15,000 per day, other states had surpassed the same a long time ago. Testing in the community should increase to at least 100 per lakh population per day. Those with influenza-like illness and any of the Covid-19 symptoms should get tested. However, the implementation plan prepared by the health department states that all districts need to gradually increase tests.
It envisages that by July 12, the testing should increase by 1.5 times of samples sent on June 27 (6,166) by focusing on samples eligible for pooled testing along with maintaining an adequate number of expatriate and contact testing. The districts have been asked to maintain a test positivity rate of less than 1.5.A Directorate of Health Services officer said, “It is only the procedural delay that is slowing down the process of increasing testing. Efforts are on to set up more labs. But for the same, the Indian Council of Medical Research’s approval is needed.”
Labs conducting various tests
46:Covid-19 testing (27 in government, 19 in private sectors)
23: RT-PCR test (16, 7)
9: CB-NAAT test (2, 7)
14: TrueNat test (9, 5)
8: New labs in pipeline
12,710: Daily testing capacity as per new testing strategy
18,310: The increase possible with automated RNA extraction machine
20,740: Number of tests targeted with new laboratories