The West Bengal government is all set to buy 18 Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machines to increase the number of Covid-19 testing to 25,000 samples per day. The government also plans to increase manpower in laboratories to meet the target.
However, according to the state government, it will not increase the number of laboratories for testing.
Health Secretary Narayan Swarup Nigam said, “RT-PCR is the golden standard. Sometimes other procedures have failed to yield proper results, which is not the case with RT-PCR. So, we have decided to procure more RT-PCR machines, and will use lab infrastructure optimally to increase the number of testing.”
At present, the average daily testing hovers between 11,000 and 13,000 samples per day. In the last one week, the average sample testing per day was 13,250.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the Martyrs’ Day virtual rally on July 21 had said, “More testing and (contact) tracing is necessary to control this disease. Don’t panic. It’s true that the number of Covid-infected people is increasing, but we are doing well.”
Last week, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha had announced that a target of 25,000 tests per day was fixed.
“At present 13,000 tests are being conducted per day. The state government has also achieved the milestone of crossing the WHO’s standard of conducting 140 swab sample tests per million. The state conducted 144 tests per million and it will be increased to 275 per million,” said Sinha.
At present, there are 54 Covid-19 testing laboratories, including 37 state-run facilities. The RT-PCR method of testing is conducted in 28 laboratories, Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (CB NAAT) method is followed in seven and TrueNat method is undertaken in 19 laboratories.
The laboratories where the number of tests per day needs to be increased have been identified and the 19 new RT-PCR machines will be set up accordingly.
“We are adopting a series of measures to augment the daily swab sample testing, among which the most important step is capacity building of existing laboratories. We are further strengthening the lab infrastructure. In many labs, we will increase the number of shifts, for which we have already recruited more technicians,” said a senior officer of the state government. All steps have been taken to complete the process of installing these machines at the laboratories at the earliest, added the official.
According to Health Department sources, two laboratories were added to the existing list last week, while approval for the third is pending.
“We have increased our laboratories from two to 54 in the last three-and-a-half month. Our target is to ensure laboratories in every district. We have almost completed the tasks in this regard and will set up new laboratories where it will be required,” the official said.
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