Testing Covid suspects through the RT PCR method, considered the gold standard, has dipped significantly over the past week in Delhi.
Even as the positivity rate in Delhi is at an all-time high — almost one in three people who are tested have Covid — and private labs and government facilities are inundated with calls for tests, the number of tests conducted per day has fallen.
This is driven primarily by a dip in RT-PCR tests, government data shows.
While in the week before April 21, Delhi was testing around 64,000 people per day through this method, it has dipped to an average of around 45,000 per day since then. The less reliable rapid antigen tests make up the rest of Delhi’s testing numbers, which have dropped from over a lakh per day to around 75,000.
Monday’s bulletin showed under 39,000 RT-PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, though that could be attributed to it being a Sunday.
Experts say this is because testing centres are overwhelmed with bookings and have to slow down collections to clear the backlog.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on April 17 said that many test reports were delayed as some private testing labs had picked up more samples than capacity and had warned: “Strict action will be taken against such labs that collect more samples than their actual capacity and do not provide the report within 24 hours. District magistrates have also been asked to check the capacity and backlog of a private lab before sending samples to them.”
Despite the order being passed nine days ago, test reports are still delayed and home collection – for which labs are allowed to charge Rs 1,200 (Rs 400 more than if a patient come to a test centre) – is slow.
The Delhi High Court, meanwhile, requested the government to have more testing centres and to upgrade the infrastructure for collection of RT-PCR tests.
The division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Jasmeet Singh was hearing a petition alleging that a lot of hospitals have been refusing admission to patients showing symptoms of Covid-19 for want of a positive RT-PCR report. The court, during the hearing, was also informed of the declining number of RT-PCR tests in the state of Delhi.
It also directed the Delhi government to ensure wide circulation of the official order directing hospitals to not deny admission to patients for want of positive RT-PCR report.
The bench further asked hospitals to “scrupulously follow” the government order passed on April 23, which states that “no patient requiring medical aid should be denied treatment” and that all cases of moderate to severe influenza-like illness should be provided treatment as per protocol in dedicated areas to be kept for suspected cases.
Meanwhile, the division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli on Monday also took note of the non-availability and consequent black marketing of oxygen cylinders in the national capital. It said there seems to be major issues in distribution of oxygen cylinders.
“This is entirely your baby. Your system is failing on that front,” the court told the Delhi government, while asking it to exercise its powers against black marketing.
Directing refillers to remain present during the hearing on Tuesday, the court said, “We again direct them to positively comply with our orders and provide requisite information to GNCTD. We direct all refillers to ensure that refilled cylinders are supplied in terms of the directions of GNCTD and all such supplies are accounted for, failing which we shall be compelled to take strict action against them.”
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