Delhi: Covid-19 testing capacity to double to 120K, focus on RT-PCR testing
The Center announced Tuesday that it will double testing capacity to 100,000-120,000 with a focus on increasing reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing, deploying mobile testing labs and increasing ICU beds from the current 3,500 to 6,000 in the coming days to halt the sudden increase in the number of cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the national capital.
According to official data, between November 1-16, Delhi has added more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections, while 1,200 people died due to the disease during this period. Delhi has seen a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases since October 28, when daily infections passed the 5,000 mark for the first time and crossed the 8,000 mark on November 11.
“It has been decided that the number of tests will double in Delhi between 1 lakh and 1.2 lakh. And a strategy has been designed for the same. However, we must ensure that the relationship between rapid antigen tests and RT PCR is correct; it should not lean in favor of rapid antigen tests, ”said the union’s health secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, at the weekly briefing.
Ten mobile vans will be deployed and laboratories under the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and other scientific institutions will connect to increase testing, NITI Aayog member Dr. VK Paul said at the briefing.
Union Interior Minister Amit Shah had chaired a meeting on Sunday, which was attended by the Delhi LG, the Prime Minister, senior government and health officials, as well as representatives from NITI Aayog, ICMR and the Institute of Medical Sciences of India (AIIMS). On Monday, the Center announced the constitution of 10 multidisciplinary teams to inspect Delhi’s private hospitals to check whether the number of ward and ICU beds available in the hospitals is complying with the orders of the Delhi government so far.
On average, gold standard RT-PCR tests accounted for nearly 36% of the total tests performed in Delhi over the past seven days, an increase of around 28% from the previous week. A large number of RT-PCR tests need to be ensured, as the alternative rapid antigen test is known to give many false negatives for people who might have the infection. The ratio has leaned in favor of rapid antigen testing in Delhi since its introduction in mid-June, as it is cheap, easy to implement in dispensaries, and gives results in 15 minutes.
To rapidly scale up testing in the city, Dr. Paul said the full capacity of the Delhi laboratories will be used. “Currently, the city performs around 57,000 tests a day, of which almost 20,000 are performed using the RT-PCR method. Delhi has a capacity of 27,000 tests. This existing capacity will be used, ”he said. In addition, the ICMR and Ministry of Health laboratories will be used to add 10,000 tests. Scientific institutions in the city will add another 1,000, ”Paul said.
The Ministry of Health will also deploy 10 mobile laboratories for testing. “Five of these mobile labs will be operational in the next four to five days and the others will be added in a week,” he said.
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During the briefing, both Dr. Paul and Bhushan emphasized that anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should get tested. They said it was another “Covid Appropriate Behavior” besides wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and not going to crowded places and washing hands frequently.
With the increase in the number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit beds nearly full, Dr. Paul said the current 3,500 ICU beds will be increased to 6,000 in the coming days with help from the government, the military and the central government of Delhi. The army-run hospital in Dhaula Kuan will add 537 ICU beds, central government hospitals will add 45 beds, and the Delhi government will add 2680 beds, mainly through the order to reserve 80% ICU beds in 33 large hospitals. private.
To staff the hospitals, 75 medics and 250 paramedics from the central forces are being flown. “More than half of them have already arrived and the rest will also arrive in the next few days. Labor will also be sourced from the central government and hospitals run by municipal corporations, ”said Dr. Paul.
With the number of active cases increasing in the city, the government has also decided to increase the necessary support system for home care to facilitate home isolation for up to 35,000-40,000 people. “The support system needed for patients in home isolation (telemedicine support, pulse oximeter, etc.) will increase, as the number of active cases could increase in the future,” said Dr. Paul.
The number of active cases has reached a peak of nearly 44,500 in the city so far, of which nearly 80% of people remain in home isolation according to data shared by the Delhi government.
To increase isolation facilities for mild cases that are not eligible for home isolation, the union government has decided to put into operation 5,000 beds in the Radha Soami Satsang Beas center in Chattarpur and 800 beds in railway carriages.
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“The situation is as bad as it was a week ago; almost every hour I get a call to make a bed. Although more beds have been added, there is still a shortage and I don’t see any signs that the situation will improve anytime soon. Probably 10 to 12 days later, we may see a decrease in the numbers, but not now, ”said Dr. Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant for respiratory medicine and critical care at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.
“I feel like it is worse in private hospitals as people are willing to pay, and there is also a price cap, as a result there is an acute shortage of beds, especially ICU beds at the moment,” he added.