Updated: March 1, 2021 7:12:04 am
DAYS AHEAD of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha budget session that begins Monday, state Cabinet Minister for Jails and Cooperation Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (62) was declared Covid-positive by a government testing laboratory while two subsequent tests — one at a private lab and another at PGIMER Chandigarh — declared him negative, all within a span of three days.
Randhawa, who had given his first sample on February 25 at MLA Hostel, Chandigarh, as part of mandatory testing for MLAs ahead of the Vidhan Sabha session, was declared Covid-positive as per test results received from the government laboratory at Punjab Biotechnology Incubator, Mohali, on February 26.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Randhawa said he was shocked to see his ‘positive’ test report, following which he again got himself tested from a private lab — Atulaya Healthcare Private Limited, Chandigarh — on February 27. The test report, received the same day, was ‘negative’.
Randhawa said he was extremely shocked by the “contradictory results” from the government and private laboratories. Hence, to confirm his Covid status, he went for one final test. On the same day (February 27), he gave his sample for RT-PCR test at PGIMER Chandigarh. The result from PGIMER received on Sunday declared him ‘negative’.
Interestingly, Randhawa had tested positive for Covid-19 in August last year. “I was more shocked to see my ‘positive’ result because I had tested positive five months back and it was nearly impossible to test ‘positive’ again in such a short span of time as I must have developed antibodies. I sent all three reports to my Cabinet colleague Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and asked what was happening. He too was shocked,” said Randhawa.
The minister said his doctors had also said that it was not possible to test positive again so soon. “It was on the insistence of my doctors that I decided to get tested again,” he added.
He also asked why the ‘positive’ test report he received from the government lab was “handwritten” in front of his name, while the results of others on the list were “typed”. “Ehdi ni samajh aayi…(I did not get this),” he said.
Calling it a “serious lapse” on the part of the government testing lab, Randhawa said that while he did take up the matter with the health minister, he did not discuss it with his O P Soni, minister of medical education and research, under whose department Covid testing is conducted.
“I don’t know how it all happened. It has been a complete mess. I never had any symptoms. Just five months back, I had tested positive and I have no health issue. I got tested only because I had to attend Vidhan Sabha session. It is a very serious lapse…There are so many side effects of the medicines that you take for Covid-19…,” said Randhawa.
“Since this morning it has been a big issue. Why have his (Soni’s) department officials not informed him yet? He must know how such a big lapse happened…I spoke to Sidhu not Soni. It is his department (Soni’s) and he should have contacted me after this goof-up, not vice-versa,” said Randhawa.
‘Checking for lapses’
D K Tiwari, principal secretary, medical education and research, said they were checking if there was any lapse in testing at the government laboratory. Speaking to The Indian Express, Tiwari said, “Randhawa’s sample was tested with all other samples (taken from MLA Hostel) at Punjab Biotechnology Incubator Laboratory and the result was ‘positive’. It is possible to test negative in the next 1-2 days if a person is on the path to recovery and the viral load is very low. There is something called ‘CT value’ and if it is high, it means viral load was low and vice-versa. In Randhawa’s case, it was very high, which means his viral load was very low. But still, to ensure that there is no lapse in the government lab’s testing system, we are rechecking the entire chain of his sample’s testing…It is being checked if there was any lapse on our part…”
Asked about Randhawa’s ‘positive’ result being ‘handwritten’, Tiwari said, “In fact it is a thing of appreciation that instead of typing it in a hurry without cross-checking, the result was carefully handwritten after proper verification…”
Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that while his department only collects the samples, testing is taken care of by his colleague O P Soni’s department.
When contacted, Soni said, “I was not aware of this. Randhawa did not discuss it with me…”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.