Coronavirus | Bengal begins rapid antibody tests in red zones

It asks medical staff to stay put at hospitals to help curb the spread of virus

April 20, 2020 03:06 am | Updated 03:06 am IST - Kolkata

The West Bengal government has announced that it will conduct rapid antibody tests in accordance with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advisory issued on April 17.

The State government said the tests would be conducted in “the red zones where containment activities are going on only upon receipt of prior clearance from the Swasthya Bhawan”. Considering the limited number of testing kits and to avoid wastage of this precious resource, prior approval of the Department of Health and Family Welfare shall have to be taken before undertaking rapid tests in any area,” it said.

The development comes at a time when questions are being raised in several quarters over the low COVID-19 tests. The Calcutta High Court had on April 17 advised the State government to increase the number of tests on a “war footing” .

In another important notification on Monday, the State government directed that frontline medical personnel will stay at their work headquarters. “ ..It is hereby ordered that frontline medical personnel in the government hospitals shall stay in their headquarters and not commute daily from and to their residences.” The notification said daily commute puts “physical and mental strain on them besides also putting them at risk of exposure to the virus”. The order said the administration has already made arrangements for providing board and lodging facilities for them in the vicinity of their workplaces.

“Testing kits throwing up inconclusive reports”

Meanwhile, 24 new cases of COVID-19 infection were recorded in the past 24 hours and the number of active cases has increased to 198. The Health department said the number of deaths due to the COVID-19 remains at 12. The number of samples tested is 5,045 with about 415 samples being tested in the past 24 hours.

The Health department said on its official twitter handle testing kits supplied by the ICMR-NICED about two weeks ago have started to “throw up a large number of inconclusive results, necessitating a repeat confirmatory test run, thereby causing a delay in generation of final test report”.

“The apparently defective test kits supplied by the ICMR-NICED, Kolkata are resulting in a high number of repeat/confirmatory tests and causing delays and other attendant problems at a time when we are battling a pandemic. This is an issue that the ICMR needs to look into immediately,” the tweet said. There was no response from the NICED on this issue so far.

The department also said some bodies could not be handed over at the MR Bangur Hospital in the city as the result of the swab samples taken from them was awaited. They suffered from severe acute respiratory illness.

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