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Month later, mobile testing fails to take off; senior officer says don’t have resources

Almost a month ago, the UT Administration had announced carrying out on-the-spot mobile testing in different areas through rapid antigen tests.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh | September 9, 2020 2:37:08 pm
Chandigarh coronavirus cases, coronavirus cases in Chandigarh, Chandigarh coronavirus, coronavirus Chandigarh, Chandigarh news, city news, Indian ExpressThe Chandigarh Administration has been constantly facing flak for low testing.

Grappling with increasing COVID cases, the city won’t see mobile testing as of now. Even one month after the announcement, the on-the-spot mobile testing idea has failed to take off.

Chandigarh on Tuesday saw 377 new cases, the highest single-day spike till now.

A senior IAS officer, who didn’t wish to be quoted, said that they don’t have resources and staff for mobile testing in Chandigarh. “We just have a few people. And where do we deploy them? If we deploy them in mobile vehicle, who will be there in testing centre that is the sample collection centre? This is not feasible at all and that is why it could not be done,” the officer said.

Almost a month ago, the UT Administration had announced carrying out on-the-spot mobile testing in different areas through rapid antigen tests.

The administration in a statement had said that “dedicated teams will visit different areas in ambulances carrying antigen testing kits to take samples and test on the spot,” It was claimed that the testing equipment will be in the vehicle and the tests will be undertaken in areas of each sector from where Covid cases are being reported.

Later, it was also claimed that the mobile testing will help senior citizens who are reluctant to go to hospitals.

When asked why the administration couldn’t go ahead with mobile testing, UT Adviser Manoj Parida said, “We are having test centres /sample collection centres which can be reached in 20 minutes. This is adequate.”

The Chandigarh Administration has been constantly facing flak for low testing. This is despite UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore always directing the administration to focus on early detection of cases. Responding to the criticism on low testing, the administration had been saying that it conducts more tests than what the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends. It is only in the last month that the testing has been ramped up a bit.

Rapid antigen testing not on random population

“Rapid antigen testing is being conducted only on asymptomatic contacts of positive patients. We have to be focused as far as testing is concerned,” said Principal Secretary (Home), who is also Health Secretary, Arun Gupta.

Gupta said that they are being focused as far as testing is concerned. “We have to be focused and got to have some target. We did conduct the antigen testing randomly on street vendors but there was no positivity rate — just one or two isolated cases came up. At present, we are conducting RAT only on asymptomatic patients who came in contact of positive patients. We are tracing the contacts and then testing people,” he said.

The Health Secretary added that they will now conduct RAT on all people in the containment zones and a population of police officials.
“Containment zones are likely to be made and we are planning to conduct antigen tests on all the people falling in containment zones. Also, since police officials are the most exposed other than the health workers, we will conduct tests on them too,”he said.

No sero survey

Asked why sero survey wasn’t done in Chandigarh, the Health Secretary said that sero survey is for statistical purpose and useful once the numbers come down.

“At the moment, the numbers in Chandigarh are increasing. The sero survey is for study basis when a public health strategy has to be modified,” he said.

2,000 cases in 7 days

It was on August 31 that Chandigarh had crossed the 4,000-mark. And within seven days, Chandigarh saw over 2,000 cases. On September 8, the city’s COVID count was 6,372. On September 3, the city had 5,065 cases.

While 1,000 cases were coming in seven days’ time, now Chandigarh is seeing 2,000 cases in the same period. PGI director Jagat Ram too had said that Chandigarh’s COVID was at its peak.

Something to learn from Panchkula

Panchkula CMO Jasjeet Kaur asserts that they are going ahead with strategic sampling in Panchkula.

“We are conducting strategic sampling in three areas — one in patients’ contacts, second in offices and other workplaces and third in hotspot and containment areas. Sampling of shopkeepers and in various slum areas has also helped us a lot because they come in the super spreader category and we have been able to detect the positive cases early,” she said.

If Chandigarh can learn from Panchkula in this respect, detection of COVID cases can happen early and chances of spread of contagion can be less.

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