Days after the Delhi High Court advised the state government to devise a new strategy to test asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, several Delhi government hospitals have made rapid antigen testing mandatory for all patients.
This is part of the government’s shift in testing policy. Last week, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had asked district officials to double testing by conducting 40,000 tests in a day. Over the last few days, the number of daily tests have gone up. On Sunday, 36,046 tests were conducted.
Covid cases in the city breached the 3,000 mark on Sunday, touching 3,256, while 29 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. This takes the total case count to 1,91,449 and the death toll to 4,567. This is also the highest single-day spike in 69 days.
According to sources, any patient visiting non-Covid hospitals will have to undergo testing for the virus, as a part of the new directives from the state health department.
Dr BL Sherwal, medical director of Delhi State Cancer Institute, said: “Earlier, testing was not mandatory for all. Over the last few days, however, we have started testing all patients who are visiting the hospital through rapid antigen test. If required, re-testing is done through RT-PCR.” The cancer institute, like other hospitals, was earlier testing only non-Covid patients who were getting admitted or in need of surgery.
Dr Anil Agarwal, director of GB Pant hospital, said they are following the Delhi government’s protocol: “A separate area has been created near the registration counter where all patients are tested. Guidelines are being followed as per government policy. A staff member is stationed near the counter to ensure people follow social distancing.”
The National Centre for Disease Control, which conducted the first sero survey in Delhi, in its final report to the High Court had mentioned that asymptomatic patients can pose a huge challenge in effective containment of the disease. Director-General of Health Services, Delhi government, Dr Nutan Mundeja had said the government will re-strategise its testing plan through RAT and RT-PCR.
While hospitals have started testing asymptomatic patients, private labs are still awaiting guidelines.
“ICMR has relaxed guidelines for asymptomatic patients, and each state can alter them as per the need. However, we are yet to receive any official communication from the Delhi government on testing asymptomatic patients,” said a private lab owner.
At present, no private lab is authorised to test any patient without a prescription.
States like Punjab and Maharashtra have already tweaked testing guidelines for Covid patients.
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