Maharashtra has doubled its testing capacity for Covid-19 and is higher than the national average. By June 24, the state’s testing capacity was 6,376 per million population as against the national average of 5,422 per million. A month ago, the testing capacity was 3,047 per million population in the state.
Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, secretary, State Medical Education Drugs Department, said the fleet of laboratories has been expanded and presently there were 105 labs engaged with RT-PCR testing. “A minimum of 21,000 tests are being conducted daily,” Dr Mukherjee told The Indian Express, adding that at Mumbai’s J J hospital, as many as 1,500 tests were being conducted daily.
“Most of our government laboratories have testing capacity between 250-300. However, we have also democratised Covid-19 testing with the introduction of antibody and antigen tests. So, if a dentist wants to perform a surgery, he/she can opt for an antigen test to check if the patient has Covid-19… Results are given within half an hour,” Dr Mukherjee said.
The Department of Medical Education and Research issued a government resolution on June 23 based on the ICMR advisory on use of Rapid Antigen Detection Test for Covid-19. The advisory had said that minimum time taken for the test varied among different systems with a minimum of 2-5 hours, including the time taken for sample transportation. These specifications limit the widespread use of the RT-PCR test and also impedes quick augmentation of testing capacity in various containment zones and hospital settings, the advisory had said.
“While the mainstay for testing coronavirus is the use of RT-PCR, we have also used cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test (CBNAAT)… Also, TrueNat – a machine used to detect drug resistant tuberculosis – is being used to test for coronavirus,” Dr Mukherjee said.
However, with the need for a reliable point-of-care rapid antigen detection test with good sensitivity and specificity for early detection of the disease, the state GR has instructed on the use of the rapid antigen test for Covid-19.
Till date, there are 1.5 lakh cases of Covid-19 in Maharashtra and 7,106 deaths. Out of 8,71,875 laboratory samples, 1,52,765 have been tested positive (17.52 per cent) for Covid-19 till June 26. Currently, 5,58,488 people are in home quarantine and 36,903 people are in institutional quarantine, according to state epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate. Meanwhile, state officials have also instructed districts and municipal corporations to ramp up testing and increase contact tracing besides making daily calls to patients in home quarantine.
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