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Weeks after Gujarat govt announcement, 17 out of 26 universities yet to begin RT-PCR testing

The University authorities also claimed that they had offered their available machine to the nearest government testing centre but was declined as “machine was not a limitation” at the centre.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
May 11, 2021 9:16:39 pm
Weeks after govt announcement, 17 out of 26 universities yet to begin RT-PCR testingMost of the universities cited that they don’t have machines or trained staff, while others cited fear among students and staff to work in testing labs. (Express Photo)

More than three weeks after it announced using laboratory facilities of state, private and central universities for RT-PCR testing, the Gujarat government has failed to commence the same in over 65 per cent of the shortlisted universities till date, despite reminders from the Gujarat High Court.

Citing lack of infrastructure, machines, qualified and trained staff, only nine out of 26 universities have been able to start Covid testing in their laboratories following the state government order on April 18. Seventeen universities are yet to commence the process.

Among these 17 universities, Anand Agricultural University, Uka Tarsadia University, Bardoli, Ahmedabad University, Kamdhenu University, Gandhinagar and Central University of Gujarat don’t even have an RT-PCR machine.

Work is in progress in five universities — Saurashtra University Rajkot, Nirma University Ahmedabad, Charusat University Changa, Gujarat State Fertilisers and Chemical (GSFC) University and MS University, Vadodara — for upgrading infrastructure, quality control and training of its staff. In seven other universities, the government has allowed to shift their testing machines to the nearest testing facility.

Speaking to these universities has revealed that though the state government claims that these universities would start testing soon, it will not materialise anytime soon. This raises questions on the selection of these institutes and reflects the failure in doing a ground check before declaring the list of institutes.

Most of the universities cited that they don’t have machines or trained staff, while others cited fear among students and staff to work in testing labs.

“We do not have the machine so how can we start testing? We have to create a new set up right from machines to staff which is not possible at this time on such a short notice,” a senior faculty member of Anand Agricultural University told The Indian Express.

None of the two labs of the university — department of animal biotechnology and department of agricultural biotechnology — shortlisted by the state government has started the testing facility. While one does not have the machine the other has assured to shift its machine to the nearest testing facility.

Kamdhenu University in Gandhinagar and Central University of Gujarat in Gandhinagar have declined to begin RT-PCR testing at its labs. “Being a transit campus, we do not have the infrastructure and machines,” Dean of Student Welfare at Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar Prof HB Patel told this paper.

The state government had announced two labs of MS University in Vadodara to start testing, while only one of these labs has an RT-PCR machine.

“The microbiology and biotechnology lab has the machine and not the biochemistry lab. Though the work is under process, manpower is another issue. We have to arrange rooms as per bio-safety concerns with required medical instruments, which are difficult to arrange. We are not even able to arrange air conditioners for these additional rooms in all these days since we have to follow a set procedure for procurement,” Prof G Archana, head of department of Microbiology and Biotechnology Centre, told The Indian Express.

The University authorities also claimed that they had offered their available machine to the nearest government testing centre but was declined as “machine was not a limitation” at the centre.

“Since we are not diagnostic but university labs, the available lab technicians are not even graduates but merely help in the functioning of the lab. We can only request our students to volunteer. Most of them have returned to their native places and only local students are available at the moment who live with their families. So there is fear of getting infected,” she said adding that students are finding it difficult to get at least one dose of Covid vaccine.

Among the nine universities that have started testing, the Gujarat Technological University (GTU) Ahmedabad has been already conducting RT-PCR testing at its lab since February and Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre, Gandhinagar (GBRC) has been conducting the test for almost a year now.

Health Commissioner Jai Prakash Shivahare could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. Shivahare had issued an order on May 3 under the Epidemic Diseases Act 1987 to all municipal commissioners and district collectors directing them to ensure RTPCR testing is commenced in these universities.

Universities that started RT-PCR testing

*Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar
*Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar
*National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research Ahmedabad
*Gujarat Technological University Ahmedabad
*Sardar Patel University, Anand
*Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat
*Gujarat University, Ahmedabad
*Suman Deep Vidhyapith Vadodara
*Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre, Gandhinagar

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