THE INDIAN Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has asked all states and Union territories (UTs) to return the rapid test kits procured from two companies in China as they have shown “wide variations in sensitivity”.
The kits were to be used only for surveillance and not for diagnosis, but that too stands suspended now.
Facing questions on the pricing of these kits, the ICMR also issued a clarification stating that it has “not made any payment whatsoever”, and the “Government of India does not stand to lose a single rupee”.
Meanwhile, in the highest single-day toll so far, 60 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total toll to 886. With 1,463 new COVID-19 cases being reported on Monday, the tally has gone up to 28,380 (6,361 recovered).
In a letter to chief secretaries of states and UTs on Monday, the ICMR said some states had raised issues regarding the performance of the rapid test kits. “The ICMR, thereafter, has also evaluated the kits of Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics in field conditions. The results have shown wide variation in their sensitivity, despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes. In view of this, states are advised to stop using these kits procured from the above-mentioned companies and return them, to be sent back to the suppliers.”
It reiterated that the RT-PCR throat/ nasal swab test “detects the virus early and is the best strategy to identify and isolate the individual.”
At the daily briefing, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said: “Rapid diagnostic kits have a limited role to play. We have been highlighting their role in epidemiological investigation or surveillance. We have followed the full process in their procurement and no payment has been made to these companies. Required action has also been taken for non adherence to quality standards.”
Sixteen districts, which earlier had positive cases, have not reported any fresh case in the last 28 days. While three new districts — Gondia in Maharashtra, Davanagere in Karnataka and Lakhisarai in Bihar — have been added to this list, two other districts — Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar in Punjab — have dropped out.
A total of 85 districts have not reported any new case in the last 14 days.
The ICMR said 6,65,819 samples had been tested till Monday morning.
The inter-ministerial central team that went to Pune has found that the city currently has a doubling time of seven days (the national doubling time is 10 days), and one out of nine samples tests positive (the national average is one out of 23 samples).
Responding to a question on the high case load and death rates in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, Agarwal said: “These are very densely populated areas — places like Mumbai and Pune. So it is important to adhere to the containment strategy, whether it is a cluster or an outbreak, deploy sufficient manpower for a house-to-house survey, identify those with acute respiratory diseases or influenza like illnesses.”
Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary, Drinking Water and Sanitation, who heads the empowered group on logistics and supply chain, outlined the steps being taken by the government to tackle challenges in four critical sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, logistics and feeding vulnerable groups.
In its clarification on the rapid testing kits, the ICMR said the evaluation committee got four bids — of Rs 1,204, Rs 1,200, Rs 844 and Rs 600 — for the kits from Wondfo. The lowest bid offer was considered.
Saying that it tried to procure the kits directly from Wondfo company in China, it said: “However, quotation received for direct procurement had the following issues: Quotation was FOB (Free on Board) without any commitment on logistics issues. The quotation was on the basis of 100% direct advance without any guarantees. There was no commitment on timelines. Rates were communicated in US dollars without any clause for accounting for fluctuations in prices.”
So, it said, it went through Wondfo’s exclusive distributor for India, who quoted an all-inclusive price without any clause for advance.
“It needs to be also remembered that this was the first ever effort by any Indian agency to procure such kits and the rate quoted by the bidders was the only reference point… It needs to be stressed that ICMR has not made any payment whatsoever in respect of these supplies. Because of the due process followed (not going for procurement with 100% advance amount), GoI does not stand to lose a single rupee,” the ICMR said.
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