State Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday appealed to those who have tested positive for coronavirus infection after using home antigen test kits to register on a Covid-linked portal. “If they are self-tested, then they should report to the municipal/district health authorities,” Tope said.
Pradeep Vyas, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Maharashtra, also said people should report positive results from home test kits as well as rapid antigen tests to the concerned authorities, so that their health can be monitored through regular District IDSP Cell or call centres.
State Surveillance Officer Dr Pradeep Awate said at least 2.42 lakh persons have undergone self- testing in the last five to six months, and have uploaded their data on the ICMR portal.
“Of these, 11,555 had tested positive,” said Dr Awate.
With the state reporting over 46,000 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, Vyas, in a letter to district collectors, divisional commissioners and municipal commissioners, said, “It is expected that all Covid positive tests, either through rapid antigen test kits or home test kits, will be reported to the concerned authorities by the concerned laboratory/individual. But it seems that there are large numbers of Covid-positive cases which have been tested with these kits but have not been reported to the concerned authorities… those people appear to be in home isolation,” Vyas said.
He also directed district collectors to avail the help of the Food and Drug Administration to monitor the sale of such kits to various pharmacies and medical shops to understand geographical areas where these are being used on a large scale. Chemists can also be asked to inform the person purchasing such kits to report positive reports to concerned authorities, he said.
“As per genomic sequencing results at state level, we are getting Delta strain in about 70% cases. Rapid antigen tests generally do not distinguish between Delta and Omicron variants. So, it may so happen that many of these home isolated Covid-positive patients may need hospital care, particularly those with Delta strain and comorbidities, and suddenly there may be stress on our health infrastructure,” Vyas said
In a letter sent to all states on December 31 last year, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said that as cases surge, early testing of patients and their contacts, and isolating them expeditiously were among key measures to curb transmission of SARS-CoV-2. States were also encouraged to increase testing by widespread use of rapid antigen tests in such specific situations where RT-PCR testing poses challenges.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Dr Balram Bhargava, DG-ICMR, said that all tests should be uploaded on the ICMR portal. On the testing strategy for Covid-19, Dr Bhargava said that so far, 69.5 crore samples have been tested.
“There are 3,128 testing laboratories (RT PCR and similar platforms). There are 31 manufacturers of rapid antigen tests and seven manufacturers of home antigen tests. There are 43 manufacturers of RT-PCR tests. The weekly production capacity of home antigen tests is over 1.2 crore. We are in very good shape regarding the range of tests available,” said Dr V K Paul, member (health) of Niti Aayog.
Pune-based Mylab Discovery Solutions has a weekly production of 70 lakh home antigen tests.
Hasmukh Rawal, MD of Mylab Discovery Solutions, said as labs are overburdened with not just testing kits but also the task of collecting samples, home test kits have become beneficial. Self-test kits help people get tested quickly and immediately isolate themselves.
“People must report positive tests so that they can get quick hospitalisation in case of an emergency. Also, they can get their insurance claims for the expenses if they test positive,” Rawal said.
“We have witnessed a jump of almost 500 per cent in the sale of our self-test kits in the last one week, and a recent study by Columbia University has found that our self- test kit can successfully detect Omicron,” he added.
Dr J S Shinde, president of the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists, said that the sale of home antigen tests has increased. “… We estimate that in Maharashtra last month, at least 50 lakh home antigen kits must have been sold,” said Dr Shinde.
According to Anil Belkar, general secretary of Pune Chemists District Association, at least 3 lakh home testing kits have been sold in the last fortnight in the district.
Dr Awanti Golwilkar Mehendale, chief of Laboratory at A G Diagnostics Pvt Ltd , said that there was no harm in using antigen test kits. “The need is to diagnose in time so that one gets isolated and prevents spread. People should not be casual. The collection of the swab has to be done properly,” she said.
Several experts, however, expressed doubt about how many people would be able to upload the test result on the Covid portal of ICMR.
The important message though is that if people are Covid-positive, they should be responsible citizens, isolate themselves and prevent the spread of the disease, they said.
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