The increase in collection of daily samples for Covid testing in Delhi, after being nudged by the Centre, has pushed up the pendency of results in labs by more than double within a week — from 2,382 on June 12 to 7,439 on June 18 — official records show.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had on June 14 directed the Delhi government to carry out 10,000 tests daily by June 16; 15,000 by June 18; and 18,000 by June 20. On June 14, 4,371 tests were conducted in the capital.
According to data sourced from the Health Department, the number of tests carried out on June 15, 16, 17 and 18 were 5,824, 6,510, 8,452 and 12,389 respectively. The number of samples collected were 6,105, 7,786, 8,093 and 15,766 respectively.
As districts focused on collecting more samples, the pendency went on increasing. Expecting a rise in pendency, the health department had directed all labs — both in public and private sector — to work on their full potential and “further ramp up their testing capacity on priority to meet the increased demand of processing”.
According to an ICMR report dated June 20, Delhi has 44 labs, out of which 19 are government-run and 25 private. Out of the government-run labs, three are under the Delhi government, while the rest function under the Centre.
As per health department data, the number of samples collected by the government pending at various labs were 3,478 on June 15; 5,116 on June 16; 6,892 on June 17; and 7,439 on June 18.
The Delhi government did not respond to requests for a comment on the matter. District Magistrates, on condition of anonymity, said the increase in pendency was along expected lines as the capacity of processing samples in the labs has not increased as much as the daily collection.
The ICMR had on June 14 written to the Union Health Ministry saying Delhi’s overall testing capacity is around 18,000 samples per day, when taken into account the advanced COBAS 6800 testing machine installed at the Centre-run National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
However, in its affidavit to the Delhi HC on June 9, the Delhi government had stated that the city’s testing capacity stands at around 8,600 per day — 2,900 in government labs and 5,700 in private labs. “NCDC labs and the lab at IGIB, CSIR receive samples from all over the country, being national labs,” the government had mentioned.
RT-PCR tests are considered the gold standard frontline test for the diagnosis of Covid-19. RT-PCR tests take minimum two to five hours, which includes the time taken for collection of samples and their transportation to labs. In reality, it takes more time for the results to come out due to capacity constraints.
Antigen detection tests, which were initiated in Delhi on June 18, throw up results within 30 minutes and do not require conventional labs for processing. However, according to an ICMR advisory, those who test negative in the rapid antigen test should then be tested by RT-PCR to rule out infection.
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