More than half of Covid tests in Delhi with RT-PCR

More than 30,000 RT-PCR tests were conducted in Delhi on Monday, with share of the more accurate RT PCR and other molecular tests accounting for more than 50% of the total tests conducted for the second day in a row. On both occasions, fewer number of rapid antigen tests had been conducted because of a government holiday.

On Monday, the city reported 4,006 new cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and added 86 new deaths to its tally.

Despite the higher number of RT PCR test – which is more accurate and had a positivity rate of 30% as on November 7 — the positivity rate of Delhi went down further on Tuesday to 6.85%, which is the lowest since October 23. A positivity rate of 5% or less, if maintained over two weeks, shows that the spread of the infection is under control.

Even as Delhi has managed to scale up the number of RT-PCR tests —from below 15,000 to the current 30,000 tests a day — Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said that a proposal will be sent to the Union health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research to allow city labs to conduct 10% fewer tests than their capacity to ensure reports are made available within 24 hours. To increase the number of more accurate RT-PCR tests, the Delhi government has pushed the labs to full capacity, resulting in delays in turn-around time, he said.

“Delhi has been utilising the full capacity of both the government and private labs to conduct more RT PCR tests. However, there have been some delays in getting test reports. If a lab says their capacity is 10,000 tests a day and they are given as many samples, the reports get delayed. We will take the issue up with ICMR and the Centre to allow the labs to conduct 10% less tests than their capacity to ensure that the reports are available within 24 hours,” said Jain.

He said that the government had been collecting up to 40,000 samples, but the labs weren’t able to give the reports within a day. He also said that the Centre needed to extend support to help Delhi in scaling up RT-PCR tests to 60,000 a day.

In a meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah in mid-November, the government had decided to double Covid-19 testing to between 100,000 and 120,000 a day, with half of the tests being the more accurate molecular ones.

“There is a need for additional support in terms of labs as promised by Central government to ensure that the reports are issued within 24 hours,” said Jain. The Union health ministry has said that it will increase the testing capacity under its labs by 10,000 and add another 1,000 in scientific institutes. Ten mobile labs were to be deployed in the city to scale up molecular testing further.

Private labs in the city however said that they either had capacity to test more samples or they would be able to scale up on government assurance of receiving more samples. “We have the capacity in case there is a need to scale up testing further,” Dr Arvind Lal, chairman of Dr Lal Pathlabs said.

Dr Deepak Sadwani from Prognosis Labs said, “When we had started we could process about 200 samples, now we do 2,000 samples a day. Yes, we have reached capacity with our current machines and manpower, but it can be scaled up further.”

Delhi has reported 2,663 deaths in November alone, with 91 deaths being reported on an average each day in the last seven days and 115 deaths reported on an average the week before. The 10-day case fatality ratio (CFR) – proportion of deaths among those who test positive – stood at 1.93% on Tuesday.

“We have to see the moving average and not take into consideration the daily statistics. At present, 1.61% is the death ratio. During winters, pollution levels in Delhi due to stubble burning in neighbouring states was the reason behind the declining health of citizens. Due to that very reason we saw an increase in hospital admissions. However, we anticipate that in 2-3 weeks, the situation will get better,” Jain said.

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