With the easing of lockdown norms likely to trigger a spike in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the city, the ruling BJP in Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has urged the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to increase testing capacity, while NCP MP Supriya Sule has made a similar demand before the NDA government at the Centre.
In a communication to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Sule said, “The National Institute of Virology (NIV) is conducting 1,000 tests per day… it is requested that they be allowed to do 1,000 more tests so that a total of 2,000 tests can be conducted in a day.”
She pointed out that while the National Aids Research Institute (NARI) was testing 70-80 samples per day, it could carry out 1,200 tests per day by using the RT-PCR machine to its full capacity, among other measures. “These interventions will increase the capacity to 2,200 tests per day and will go a long way in helping us test better, and control Covid-19 cases in Pune,” Sule said.
Currently, Pune-based institutes such as the National Center for Cell Science (NCCS) and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), in addition to NIV and NARI, are allowed to conduct Covid-19 tests.
Mayor and BJP leader Murlidhar Mohol has also urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to increase the number of tests being conducted. “We all know that the lockdown is not a permanent solution for the ongoing pandemic. If the testing capacity is increased, then it will lead to faster containment of the infection. It is necessary to increase the number of tests immediately, else it would be difficult to ascertain how long containment measures would have to be implemented in the city,” said Mohol.
The mayor also asked the state government to take a decision on increasing the number of testing laboratories and centres in Pune.
As the infection had spread rapidly in certain pockets of the city, it was necessary to collect more swab samples and carry out more tests with immediate effect, he said. “… The NIV is conducting more tests than its capacity. This has put a lot of pressure on it,” said Mohol.
He said the wait period for coronavius test results could be up to three days currently, and this considerably increased the risk of the infection spreading from quarantine centres, where all suspected patients are kept till the results are received.
“… The further process of testing has not been increased and many are held up at quarantine centres, awaiting their test results. This has led to increase in the staying time of even those who are suspected patients, but actually don’t have the disease…. and the possibility of the infection spreading from the centre can’t be ruled out… this is very serious,” said Mohol.
The mayor said the delay in the testing process also meant more carriers of the disease were moving around freely, increasing chances of spreading the virus.
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