The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Delhi government to re-strategise its policy for testing Covid-19 patients in the national capital to accommodate asymptomatic patients in wake of the increasing number of cases, after the ICMR said that it is only an advisory body and the states are free to make changes according to their own testing capacity.
The order was passed by a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, who ordered, “While drawing up a fresh guideline, Delhi government shall examine as to whether the necessity of obtaining a prescription from a private doctor for undergoing the RT-PCR should be made mandatory/optional or done away with.”
“You (Delhi government) thought you had slayed the dragon (Covid-19). However, this dragon has several heads, which is making life miserable for people. Cases are rising in the city every day,” the court said.
The court was told that the tally of tests conducted revealed that while testing through the RAT (Rapid Antigen Testing) mode has increased incrementally, testing through RT-PCR has been stagnating between 5,000 to 6,000 per day on an average.
In other words, though the combined testing capacity of private and public laboratories in Delhi through the RT-PCR mode is 14,000, the actual testing through RT-PCR including CBNAAT and TrueNat is virtually half of that, the court said.
The court enquired from Dr Nivedita Gupta, Scientist-F, ICMR, why ICMR should not consider issuing a fresh advisory for Delhi, particularly when there is a huge increase in Covid-19 cases on a daily basis from August 21 onwards. Gupta submitted, “ICMR only issues nationwide advisories and is in the process of re-strategising to come up with a fresh advisory, but that does not preclude any state from declaring their own set of guidelines depending on its capacity of testing and the number of Covid-19 cases emerging in the said state.”
Gupta also gave the example of Punjab, where the government has permitted testing through RT-PCR without obtaining any prescription from a doctor.
She also stated that Maharashtra, looking at its own needs, has tweaked the advisory to come up with their own guidelines, the court said.
Dr Nutan Mundeja, DGHS, GNCTD was asked why the “Delhi government has not decided to open up RT-PCR testing through private laboratories, as long as the public exchequer is not burdened and it does not create a scarcity of testing.”
Mundeja submitted that “in view of the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and the submission made on behalf of the ICMR today, Delhi government will restrategise its plans of testing, not only through RAT, but also through the RT-PCR mode.”
Advocate Satyakam, the Additional Standing Counsel for Delhi government, told the court the Delhi government is “conscious of the fact that the testing capacity has to be ramped up, particularly in containment zones, which have risen to 820.”
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