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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Punjab to launch pilot project for rapid antigen testing next week

Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh gave his approval for rapid antigen testing, under which 1,000 tests will be conduced randomly as part of a pilot project. After the initial 1,000 tests, rapid antigen testing will be done on all in-bound migrant workers.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh | July 4, 2020 11:26:30 am
Punjab, Antigen Testing, Patiala Health Workers, COVID-19 Patiala health workers collect swab samples for Covid tests at Model Town government dispensary on Friday. Harmeet Sodhi

Two days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah underlined the use of rapid antigen testing, Punjab has decided to join the list of many other states to launch a pilot project for Covid-19 rapid antigen testing starting next week.

Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh gave his approval for rapid antigen testing, under which 1,000 tests will be conduced randomly as part of a pilot project. After the initial 1,000 tests, rapid antigen testing will be done on all in-bound migrant workers. Amarinder’s approval came during a video conference to review the Covid situation in the state.

The rapid antigen testing gives a result within half and hour while the RT-PCR testing take 2-3 days. This delays testing reports. The Centre has approved an NCR-based company for states to purchase rapid testing antigen kits.

The state government will procure rapid antigen testing kits to scale up its Covid testing capacity, which is higher than the Government of India mandate of 140 tests per million per day in regions with a positivity rate of less than 10 per cent. With a positivity rate of just 2 per cent, Punjab is already conducting 242 tests/million/day as part of its comprehensive strategy to check further spread of the pandemic, a government statement said after the meeting.

Inbound travelers

Amarinder on Friday made it mandatory for inbound travelers to e-register on the COVA app before entering the state through the Shambhu border, to ensure strict monitoring of the thousands of people coming from the high-risk NCR region every day.

Notwithstanding the Centre’s revised guidelines replacing home quarantine for domestic travelers with self-monitoring, the chief minister ruled out any such move in Punjab in view of the large number of people coming to the state every day from Delhi NCR, where cases were currently spiraling.

The chief minister also made it clear that no vehicle should be allowed to enter Punjab without stringent monitoring mechanism in place.

Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan assured Amarinder that strict monitoring would be ensured of all entrants, with private players being roped in to ensure implementation of home quarantine with phone-based monitoring and regular visits. All entrants to the state would be required to mandatorily register themselves either on the COVA app or the government web portal, and the registration certificate, with bar code, should be carried on the vehicle windscreen. Those without the certificate printout on their car screens would be stopped and made to register on the spot, at the border, before proceeding, she said, adding that with requirement of passes done away with in Unlock 2.0 by the Centre, e-registration would help in monitoring and tracking of incoming domestic travellers.

The Chief Secretary further said that with the Centre gradually withdrawing from supply of PPE kits and medicines etc. to states, and Punjab receiving only Rs 72 crore so far this year, the chief minister may need to intervene in seeking additional funds and continuation of supplies from the Centre. Though the state administration had already taken up the matter with the Centre, the chief minister might have to step in if no positive response is forthcoming in the next few days, she added.

Meanwhile, to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria during the current monsoon season, the chief minister directed the local government and rural development departments to undertake a 15-day intensive sanitation campaign, in addition to the ongoing disinfectant spraying being done in both urban and local areas.

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