Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday lashed out at the Central government hours after his government announced that it was stopping rapid testing for coronavirus since the kits, sent by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which it had procured from China, were found to be ineffective.
The CM termed the news “unfortunate” and “unsettling” since the state’s testing via Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR based) tests right now has not yet reached optimum levels.
“ICMR had sent us 30,000 kits while 10,000 kits were directly procured by us. But unfortunately, the results of these kits — which were brought after much difficulty — are doubtful. And it is a very serious situation,” Gehlot said, addressing journalists via video conferencing from his residence Tuesday evening.
Earlier in the day, Health Minister Raghu Sharma said, “More testing means more clarity on the reality (about the spread of the virus). We didn’t have PCR-based testing kits in sufficient numbers and have placed orders for procurement of Rapid Testing Kits. So, we deemed it appropriate to test symptomatic persons through these kits.”
Sharma said that a qualitative test was conducted at Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh hospital and “when we tested it on 168 positive cases, the result was mere 5.4 per cent (accurate). So when there is little correlation, then what is the benefit of continuing with these tests? We have written to the ICMR that we have followed your guidelines and protocol without any compromise and the results are before us now. So, should we continue any further.”
“Even though these were not fool-proof tests, (the idea was) to make out the number of suspects (through Rapid Testing Kits). We would have anyway conducted a PCR tests. But now our team of doctors has advised that there is no benefit in conducting a test hence we have stopped,” Sharma said.
Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Rohit Kumar Singh, confirmed that these kits, sent by ICMR, were procured from China. Gehlot said that the state government had also imported kits from the same company as ICMR. Earlier, responding to a question by The Indian Express, CM Ashok Gehlot had said that each of these kits costs the state Rs 610. Apart from 40,000 kits, 1.25 lakh more were expected to arrive but these are being put on hold.
At the SMS hospital, a team led by Head of Microbiology Department, Dr Nitya Vyas, and Head of General Medicine Department, Dr S Banerjee had tested the kits. Minister Sharma said that the effectiveness of these tests should have been at least 90 per cent but it being 5.4 per cent is as good as “zero.”
He said that if the ICMR tells to state to continue with the suspension of testing via these kits, “then these kits can also be sent back.”
CM Gehlot said this could have been avoided had the Centre listened to the states. “States have their own experiences and deal with people directly and hence get a feedback. The Central government should make use of it. In the video conference I had with Prime Minister a few days ago, I had said that essential (medical) commodities should be supplied via a centralised mechanism so that there is no dearth. We had requested the PM for a centralised purchase of medical equipment such as PPE kits, masks, ventilators, testing kits, PCR kits, etc.”
“Had they accepted this and realised its importance then this situation wouldn’t have arisen in the country, where ICMR has to hold a press conference about the testing kits,” he said, adding that lack of a centralised planning has led to lack of clarity about the quality of these kits, and leading to states rushing to directly procure from South Korea or China.
He said that after its Bhilwara model had been appreciated, the state had wanted to present its number of tests — already higher than most states — as a model too, but the failure of these kits has punctured any such plans.
“We already don’t stand anywhere when it comes to tests per million. It seems that things are fine, not many are testing positive and death rate is low. But we don’t know in which direction Covid-19 might go. Approximately, we are conducting 251 tests per million nationally while United States of America is conducting 12,000 tests per million, Germany is conducting 21,000 Italy is conducting 5,000 and Spain is conducting 20,000 tests per million.”
As of Wednesday, the state’s total coronavirus positive cases stood at 1,735 with 159 new cases — including 5 from Bhilwara — being reported for the day. As many as 26 persons have died while 274 have recovered and 97 have been discharged across the state.
Constable, home guard test positive
A police constable and a home guard on Tuesday tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Kota district, taking the tally to 108, as authorities fined 15 people Rs 100 each for not wearing face masks in public. The entire staff of the police station has been quarantined after the constable’s test report arrived.
The district authorities, meanwhile, cracked the whip against those found without masks in public. A police team spotted some people going to various places without wearing masks. The team first explained to the people about importance of wearing masks and then slapped fines on them.