With state officials predicting that the next wave of COVID-19 will hit rural areas with migrants returning home from urban Maharashtra, the capacity to test for the virus is being strengthened in every district.
The state government has asked all private and public medical colleges to start testing facilities. Of the 18 government medical colleges, 12 already have laboratories to test Covid-19 samples. Of the 52 private medical colleges, 38 have been asked to set up labs and not charge beyond Rs 4,500 for each test. The Indian Council of Medical Research has also asked municipal hospitals to set up testing laboratories.
Maharashtra currently has 58 public and private laboratories that have a testing capacity of 11,000 samples per day. Of them, government labs contribute to 65 per cent of the testing strength.
In the last two weeks, new labs have also started operating under National Institute of Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH) at Parel and Dahanu as well as National Institute of Virology in Pune. Further, the state has asked biotechnology institutes to start testing for COVID-19.
“We are trying to develop district-level testing facilities to cater to Tier II and Tier III cities. Most private laboratories are in Mumbai and Pune,” said Sanjay Mukherjee, state medical education secretary. Also, the public health department is training several Ayush doctors in rural areas through video conferencing in procedure for swab collection.
With most cases asymptomatic, the focus is on opening more COVID-19 care centres where those infected, but have no symptoms, can be kept. The state has 1,108 such centres – most in Mumbai, Thane and Pune. “The plan is to have at least two care centres in each district,” said Anup Kumar Yadav, director of National Health Mission, Maharashtra.
As per state data, in 20 districts, number of cases are currently doubling in over eight days. On the other hand, Hingoli, Aurangabad and Akola have doubling rate of less than eight days. The fastest growth in cases is being seen in Hingoli, where cases are doubling in less than three days.
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