Coronavirus | COVID-19 testing capacity up in States seeing huge migrants’ flow

Health workers arrange swab test samples for coronavirus at government hospital in Jammu. File

Health workers arrange swab test samples for coronavirus at government hospital in Jammu. File   | Photo Credit: AP

States working with National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme to deploy TrueNAT machines for testing

The Union Health Ministry has admitted that Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha, currently witnessing large-scale return of migrant workers, and remote areas need aggressive COVID-testing capacity scale-up to clear any backlogs.

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The admission comes at a time when the country is among the top 10 hot spot of COVID-19 worldwide, adding approximately over 6,000 new cases every 24 hours in the graded ease-down period of the fourth phase of the national lockdown.

“The heavy influx of migrant workers into States like U.P., Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha, has forced the Indian Council of Medical Research [ICMR] to scale up its testing labs here. So far, we have scaled up with 15 testing labs in Bihar, 17 in Odisha, 28 in U.P. and 36 in West Bengal. This has been paired with supplies of testing materials to all the States and UTs. We are using indigenous vendors and manufacturers to produce swabs for sample collection, RNA extractions kits and RT-PCR diagnostic material,’’ said a senior official.

The States have been working with the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) to deploy TrueNAT machines for COVID-19 testing, he stated. Through this machine, testing is done in such areas/ districts where a modern virological laboratory in private or public doesn’t exist. The Ministry also admitted that India doesn’t have a medical college or private laboratory with capacity to test such a virus in every district.

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So far no State had been overwhelmed with significant backlog of samples to be tested, he noted. “The use of 375 TrueNat machine is under way for the States seeing a surge of migrants’ return and supplies of 608 additional TrueNat machines are being mobilised in remote areas. The new machines, though procured for supplementing the needs for TB testing, have been allocated to the States with the flexibility for their deployment based on possible need for enhanced testing”, he added.

TrueNat capacity

The daily testing capacity of a TrueNat machine is 10-12 tests. “Keeping in mind the burden of cases and existing RT-PCR testing capacities, allocation has been done to different States/ UTs. With supply of these machines, it would be possible to have COVID-19 testing capacities in districts with no RT-PCR testing capacity,’’ said the ICMR.

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TrueNat platform also came with an inbuilt sample collection in viral-lysis buffer, the virus was inactivated and the biosafety requirements were minimal while handling the sample.

Alternate platforms working on GeneXpert and Abott machines engaged in testing TB and HIV viral load testing respectively have also been mapped and operationalised. “As of now, 104 TrueNat and 54 CBNAAT testing sites are included for COVID-19 testing. The alternate platforms have helped in bringing the testing to grass roots level,’’ the ICMR said.

Also read: India lockdown 4.0 guidelines | What’s allowed and what’s not?

The country now has 609 total labs (431 public and 178 private). It was now testing about 1.1 lakh samples a day and had the capacity to test 1.4 lakh samples, which is being raised to 2 lakh samples, noted the Health Ministry, adding that India developed an -- Intelligent Testing Strategy -- to remain ‘ahead of the virus’.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 7:51:04 PM |

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