The supply of new rapid test kits would mean the government’s plan to use them, particularly in red zones as well as in low prevalence areas to track trends, will be back on track after an initial lot of Chinese kits failed to function properly. The kits have been embroiled in controversy with ICMR finding them to be unreliable, as they gave a wide variation in results.
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As partial movement starts within states and economic activities reboot outside containment zones, the government believes cases might rise, requiring preparedness in terms of laboratory capacity to diagnose those infected with coronavirus.
A total of 10,46,450 samples were tested through RT-PCR till 9am on Sunday, while the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases was 39,980. Enhanced testing will be required for increased surveillance and to rule out wider spread. “We will continue to use rapid antibody tests for surveillance and epidemiological purposes. We have validated around eight to nine companies and orders have been placed with two of them. There is also a South Korean firm manufacturing these kits in Manesar. We are also exploring other sources to buy these antibody kits,” a senior official said.
The government expects to receive over 10 lakh RT-PCR kits from both local and foreign manufacturers, whereas delivery of a similar number of rapid antibody kits from indigenous manufacturers — and an additional 3 lakh from a South Korean firm — are expected by next week, the official said.
“Testing will be scaled up further. We are making efforts to increase the capacity footprint so that we are prepared to do one lakh of RT-PCR and one lakh of rapid antibody per day by May 31 and ramp it up further to half a million in another four to six weeks,” another senior official said.
At present, an average of 75,000 RT-PCR tests is conducted in a day. However, rapid antibody tests have almost come to a standstill after kits from two Chinese company failed validation tests.
Though some experts feel India is not doing adequate number of tests and several cases may remain undetected, the government and the ICMR have maintained that testing has to be driven by a protocol based on symptoms. The lack of any significant change in the positivity rate despite higher testing indicates the strategy is on the right track.