As per sources, the Group of Ministers meeting chaired by Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Saturday has decided to delay the use of rapid testing kits. This assumes significance in the wake of numerous complaints regarding the test kits obtained from China. Moreover, PM Modi on National Panchayati Raj Day had also stressed the importance of India becoming "self-reliant".
Adding that many Indian companies were in the process of developing test kits, sources noted that the country had the capacity to conduct more than 15 lakh COVID-19 tests. Furthermore, the GoM meeting also reportedly talked about the availability of volunteers to fight the novel coronavirus. Currently, there are 24,506 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in India out of which 5063 persons have recovered while 775 casualties have been reported.
It was agreed in the meeting that #COVID19 situation in the country is under control and the steps taken by the government have shown positive results. Therefore, the use of rapid test kits has been postponed for now: Sources on today's Union Group of Ministers meeting— ANI (@ANI) April 25, 2020
According to govt, currently, the capacity is to conduct more than 15 lakh tests. Additionally, several Indian companies are in the process of developing test kits. More than 1.25 lakh volunteers are ready to assist in the fight against #COVID19: Sources on today's GoM meeting https://t.co/RWPzfATsIS— ANI (@ANI) April 25, 2020
India procured 5.5 lakh rapid testing kits from two Chinese companies- Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Livzon Diagnostics after which they were distributed to the states. On April 21, the ICMR advised the state governments to not use the rapid testing kits for the next two days. Addressing a press briefing, Dr. Raman Gangakhedkar - the head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at ICMR, conceded that there was a significant variation in the positive RT-PCR samples. At the same time, he observed that tests might be in a crude form as only three and a half months had passed since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A day later, the ICMR wrote to the state governments specifying the protocol for conducting the rapid antibody tests. In a letter written to all the Chief Secretaries, the ICMR reiterated that rapid antibody tests are to be largely used as a tool for surveillance to ascertain the formation of antibodies in a person exposed to COVID-19. Highlighting that the RT-PCR test was the confirmatory test for the diagnosis of the novel coronavirus infection, the ICMR made it clear that the rapid antibody test cannot replace the RT-PCR test.
Meanwhile, the aforesaid Chinese pharma companies have issued statements expressing their willingness to cooperate with the Indian authorities pertaining to the allegations of faulty testing kits. Assuring that they followed strict quality control of their products, the companies emphasized that specific guidelines must be followed in the storage of their kits as well as their usage to get accurate results. Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Livzon Diagnostics have supplied 3 lakh and 2.5 lakh rapid testing kits respectively.