Science & Technology

COVID-19 testing in India hits 1 mln

Country has ramped up its testing facilities

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Saturday 02 May 2020
Photo: Flickr

India has finally crossed the one million mark in testing people for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). These are the RT-PCR tests which are the gold standard for diagnosing the disease. So far, 37,776 people have tested positive. 

Testing is considered crucial in the fight against the disease as it helps in quarantining the patients and preventing further spread. These tests are carried out on people who show the symptoms of the disease.

Once the test is positive, while the patient is isolated, people who might have come in their contact are identified and quarantined too. South Korea, which is being lauded for managing the pandemic well, depended extensively on these tests. RT-PCR test can help identify active patients unlike the serological tests which just show if a person had suffered from the disease earlier. 

India has been often blamed for carrying out very few tests which could be the reason for fewer cases reported from the country. However, the country has ramped up testing facilities. As of now, there are 421 labs testing for coronavirus in the country. As many as 75,000 tests are carried out each day in the country. 

Availability of test kits is a major problem as these have to be imported, mainly from China and South Korea. However, quite a few tests have been developed indigenously now.

As of May 1, 2020, the Indian Council of Medical Research has validated a total of 45 RT-PCR kits. Ten of these are from India. The testing kits developed in India are much cheaper — Rs 1,000 compared to Rs 4,500 when imported — than the ones that need to be imported.

The India companies include Ahmedabad-based CoSara, that was the first one to get the licence. Meanwhile, researchers at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology under the Department of Science and Technology have developed two types of nasal and oral swabs and viral transport medium for COVID-19 testing too.

The kits containing 50 vials of viral transport medium with 50 swabs would cost around Rs 12,000. These are considered to be the biggest limiting factors to increasing the number of tests.

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