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Labs working overtime, overburdened due to increasing load of swab samples

The new government order to test employees at workplaces every fortnight has added to the burden. Some labs have stopped home services to collect swabs as many of their staff are testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
April 10, 2021 3:43:03 am
Moreover, authorities at several laboratories said any person in the early phase of the infection may not test positive. The virus multiplies in the next two to three days and only then will a swab test be able to detect the virus.(Representational)

Several laboratories are working overtime and testing almost three to four times the number of swab samples for Covid-19 than usual. Over 45,000 samples were tested daily over the past two to three days, and a majority of the labs are overburdened due to the increasing load.

The new government order to test employees at workplaces every fortnight has added to the burden. Some labs have stopped home services to collect swabs as many of their staff are testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

Moreover, authorities at several laboratories said any person in the early phase of the infection may not test positive. The virus multiplies in the next two to three days and only then will a swab test be able to detect the virus. Hence, a false negative can also lead to lowering your guard, experts said.

Dr Awanti Golwilkar-Mehendale, chief of laboratory at AG Diagnostics, said their testing capacity was minimum of 800 to 1,000 samples daily. “But now we, like most other laboratories, are getting a minimum of three times that capacity. We are trying our best to deliver test reports,” she said.

Several have questioned the benefit of testing every 14 days. Several authorities at diagnostic labs said one test did not justify that over the next 14 days the person was not going to be infected and become infective. The person might have been exposed but could be in an early incubation phase and tests might not be able to detect the virus during that period, they added.

The effort to test, however, is laudable but it will overburden the healthcare system, they added. “There is a need to be cautious as these tests can lower people’s guards if they test negative. What is most important is adhering to safety protocols like masking, distancing and sanitisation,” Dr Awanti said.

Pallavi Jain, MD of Krsnaa Diagnostics, said there was a lot of pressure. “The new GR (government resolution) has added more pressure with employees at workplaces to be tested. There is an additional rush with the wedding season and with industries told to test their workforce,” Jain told The Indian Express. “At least 19 of the laboratory’s staff members have tested positive and, due to this, we will temporarily halt home service. Only those who have co-morbid conditions and are aged or are pregnant, and cannot step out, will be catered to at home,” Jain said, urging others to visit collection points in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.

She said they were coping and while the situation was not great, she urged people not to panic. “The number of tests reduced to as low as 200 in December-January, and now it has gone up to testing 2,000 samples,” she said.

BJMC lab tests highest number of samples

BJ Government Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital has been testing 3,000 to 3,500 samples daily for the past week, which is the highest among government and private laboratories in the city. There are some 35 laboratories, out of which 25 are in the private sector.

While National Institute of Virology has been engaged in testing a majority of the samples in the entire pandemic, the focus is also on genome sequencing of samples. At the National Centre for Cell Science, scientists are also engaged in genome sequencing. With the increasing load of samples, the lab at Sassoon General Hospital now gets more than 3,000 to 3,500 samples daily for RT-PCR tests, apart from conducting another 150 to 200 antigen tests. Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, head of the department of microbiology and incharge at the lab at BJ Medical College, said to date, they had tested 2.7 lakh samples. Meanwhile, IISER, MACS-ARI and others are also involved in testing samples.

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