Tamil Nadu’s plan to increase the number of sample tests with rapid antibody test kits has hit a roadblock, with consignments from China getting delayed. State Chief Secretary K Shanmugam confirmed reports that the kits from China were delayed because a consignment for India was sent to the US.
It will take 24 hours to get the consignment after China allows the shipment, but there was no indication of a decision until Saturday evening, said a senior official of Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu reported 58 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. One death was reported in Erode, said Shanmugam. The total number of tested samples also increased from 8,410 on Friday to 9,527 on Saturday.
The state had placed orders for 4 lakh rapid antibody-based kits in addition to those expected from the ICMR. The first despatch of 1 lakh kits was to reach Tamil Nadu on Thursday. The state health services were prepared to ship them to various districts and had trained health workers to administer them.
“When the shipments from China are cleared, we will get at least 50,000 kits in the first despatch,” Shanmugam said. He said the state has enough standard swab test kits and that they will continue aggressive testing of family members and secondary contacts of positive cases with available stock. “Rapid test is for a larger population setting. For example, if we had it, we could have tested everyone in the quarantine, containment zones as well as all frontline workers,” the chief secretary said.
Unlike Kerala’s rapid-polymerase chain reaction (rapid-PCR) testing kits from Pune-based Mylab, which take nose or throat swabs and give a result within three hours, antibody rapid test kits give the result in 30 minutes. Blood samples are taken for the test with a lancet provided for finger-pricks. If the test is positive, samples are sent for a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.
Until Friday, Tamil Nadu reported 911 confirmed COVID-19 cases and tested 7,267 samples. Amid criticism that testing was not adequate, the state has maintained that it has been following ICMR guidelines. On Friday, the state ordered district health departments to test all secondary contacts and everyone with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness irrespective of travel history.
Over 20,000 health workers, including those attached with local bodies, are surveying vulnerable spots for potential cases and people with symptoms. For example, 11,000 health workers and volunteers visited 9 lakh houses in the Greater Chennai region on Friday and identified 515 people with symptoms. G Prakash, Corporation Commissioner, said that 2488 people were identified with symptoms like cold and fever since the containment operations started.
Dr K Kolandaswamy, Director of Public Health, said they would continue the existing procedure of screening and testing samples until the rapid test kits arrive from China.