Delhi failing in COVID-19 tests?

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Delhi is paying the price for ignoring the stringency of the epidemic. With less Covid-19 tests in Delhi, cases and victims rising , stressed the Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, coupled with aggressive supervision, contact tracing and strict containment and border control measures. “While Delhi’s positivity rate last week was 25.7 per cent, several districts reported figures above 38 per cent,” he said in a statement.

“One in four people being tested in Delhi is turning out coronavirus positive,” said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.

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Current testing conditions in Delhi

Most private laboratories in Delhi have either stopped the tests in a day or are not collecting samples for some time, making it very difficult to get tested for the coronavirus disease in the capital. Some laboratories said they will start collecting samples from Monday. Delhi’s testing protocol is rigid than the Indian Council of Medical Research. Even direct contacts of infected people can be tested only if they are senior citizens or have co-morbidities

COVID-19 tests Delhi: Tests are restricted to symptomatic individuals

Under current rules, a senior official in the chief minister’s office explained, the first stop for an asymptomatic individual should be a flu clinic (these are located in all government hospitals and the 10 private hospitals that have so far been identified by the government). There, a doctor examines the symptoms and recommends a COVID test. A laboratory will accept any application for test only with a doctor’s recommendation.

For COVID tests in Delhi, only 42 labs are eligible, of which eight are temporarily discontinued from collecting fresh samples. Once the person tests positive or negative, the same factors – nature of symptoms, age, co-morbidities, etc – determine whether the person is assigned home quarantine, sent to institutional quarantine or admitted in a hospital, the official added.

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Few labs didn’t answer calls—including Genestrings Diagnostic Centre in Sarvodaya Enclave; Gen X diagnostics in Sarvapriya Vihar

It sounds simple on paper but isn’t, people who want to get tested will have to go to a doctor for a prescription for a test, get a referral form signed by that doctor, and then look for a laboratory that will test them. Few labs didn’t answer calls—including Genestrings Diagnostic Centre in Sarvodaya Enclave; Gen X diagnostics in Sarvapriya Vihar; Aakash Healthcare and four others. Some of them had booked a test provision on their websites.

Eight laboratories in Delhi were banned from carrying out tests after the government jerked them up on June 5 for not following protocol, and, according to the Delhi health minister, they were taking too long to report results. These are Dr Lal Pathlabs, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Prognosis laboratory, SRL, Fortis, Star Imaging Path laboratory, Pathkind Labs and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket and BL Kapur Memorial Hospital on Pusa road said they have a token system for tests. At Max hospital, patients have to reach at 7.30 am at gate number 3 where samples are collected from the first 40 patients. At BL Kapur, 45 patients are tested, starting at 8 am.

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City X-Ray and Scan Clinic in Tilak Nagar and Lifeline Laboratory in Green Park were not collecting samples on Sunday.

The rest said tests can be scheduled depending on whether documents are in place. Some asked for the prescription, Aadhar card and ICMR referral form to be sent on WhatsApp before a test can be scheduled on a later date.

All these jumble creates trouble for patients, that leaves Covid-19 suspect patients with little option but to head to a government hospital where they can get screened and tested. Or the other option is to go to the nearest mohalla (neighbourhood) clinic where a doctor can recommend a test based on the severity of symptoms; these tests can happen at the 16 Delhi government test centres. But many may not choose to go directly to a government hospital for the fear of contracting the infection there. All these mischievous activities of government and health bureaucrats are risking people’s life and the capital of India.

Written by Kanishtha Singh, a Mass Communication student at Makhanlal Chaturvedi University(MCU), Bhopal. Covers Political, Women and International Issues .

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