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Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has advised all States to refrain from using rapid test kits for the next two days, after huge variations in the accuracy of results were noticed across regions. A scene on antibody-based rapid test kits in Chennai. | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Coronavirus | ICMR asks States to stop using rapid antibody tests for next 2 days

Bindu Shajan PerappadanNEW DELHI, APRIL 21, 2020

As many as 29,776 samples have been tested in 201 labs under the ICMR network, and 6,076 at 86 private laboratories.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has directed the States not to use the COVID-19 rapid testing kits for the next two days following reports of wide variations in results.

The kits would be tested and validated by ICMR teams and an advisory on their use issued in the next two days. If they were found to be not up to the mark, replacements would be sought from the manufacturers, ICMR spokesperson Dr. R.R. Gangakhedkar said on Tuesday. 

ICMR officials said the quality issues with the test kits, currently being used to study community transmission, would put on hold survey in several States temporarily.

Rajasthan halts testing

The Rajasthan government on Tuesday decided to halt rapid antibody tests after an experts’ team questioned the use of the newly distributed Chinese testing kits following inaccurate results. The health authorities had started the testing on those with symptoms at designated points on Friday.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said at a videoconference with journalists in Jaipur that since his request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi a fortnight ago to carry out centralised purchasing of medical equipment was not heeded, the kits of inferior quality had been supplied to the States. “This has seriously hampered our efforts to get fast test results for starting the treatment and contain the spread of the virus.” The advisory issued by the ICMR to the States to not use testing kits for the next two days was “most unfortunate”, as the medical apex body could not ensure good quality of testing kits. “Even at this late stage, the Centre should take an urgent action to procure the equipment from reliable sources and supply them to the States,” he said.

Also read: Rajasthan ceases use of rapid testing kits as most results invalid

The ICMR has maintained that among the total COVID-19 tests conducted so far, 69% were asymptomatic cases and 31% symptomatic. India on Tuesday registered over 1,336 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 18,985. The total number of deaths stands at 603, while 3,259 people recovered/ cured so far, which includes 705 people cured in the last 24 hours. So far, India has registered 17.48% COVID-19 recovery rate, according to the Health Ministry.

“Four districts — Mahe [Puducherry], Kodagu [Karnataka], Pauri Garhwal [Uttrakhand] and Pratapgarh [Rajasthan], have not reported any fresh cases in the last 28 days. There are now 61 additional districts from 23 States/UTs that have not reported any fresh cases in the last 14 days. Four districts have been included in the list: Latur, Osmanabad, Hingoli and Washim in Maharashtra,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, Health Ministry.

Availability of blood 

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has written to the health departments of all States/UTs to ensure adequate availability of blood in blood banks in particular, for people needing regular blood transfusion with blood disorders, he said.

Also read: Coronavirus | Rapid antibody testing for hotspots first, says ICMR

“Portal ‘e-RaktKosh’ needs to be used for the real-time status monitoring of the current stock of each blood group. As part of the collaborative approach for COVID-19 management, Indian Red Cross has started a 24X7 control room in Delhi for blood services. The numbers are: 011-23359379, 93199 82104, 93199 82105,’’ the Health Ministry said.

Addressing the problem of hospitals getting closed as some healthcare workers are becoming positive and some patients admitted for unrelated disease in non-COVID-19 hospitals becoming positive, the Ministry has issued guidelines for detection of such cases in non-COVID-19 health facilities.

“The hospital infection control committee is now responsible for monitoring such issues. It shall ensure that the healthcare workers are oriented on infection prevention and control guidelines. Local health authorities have to be informed about the cases and transfer the patients to be treated in isolation for COVID-19. Such patients should be masked and only dedicated healthcare workers should attend these cases,’’ Mr. Agarwal said.

As per the clinical status, a patient shall be transferred to a dedicated COVID facility following standard precautions. It shall be disinfected and all contacts of the patient shall be quarantined and followed up for days. “All close contacts shall be put on HCQ for a period of 7 weeks keeping in mind the contraindications of HCQ also,” he added.

Asymptomatic patients 

Replying to a question on large number of asymptomatic patients in the country, Dr. Gangakhedkar said that so far 80 % of cases came with no symptoms or very mild symptoms, 15 with moderate and 5 % needed ICU aid. “This is a new disease but in the past three and half months, science has progressed and developed PCR tests. And five vaccines have gone into the human trial phase out of 70 vaccine candidates. It has never happened before in case of any other disease,’’ he noted.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was launching a randomised, blinded, two arms, active comparator-controlled clinical trial to evaluate drug efficacy to reduce mortality in critically ill COVID-19 patients, the Ministry said.

The Empowered Committed-4, which is working for augmenting human resources and capacity building, said they have developed a COVID warrior dashboard that contains data for 20 categories (with 49 sub categories) human resources.

“At present, there is data for more than 1.24 cr. human resources on the dashboard and it is continuously being updated with the addition of new groups and sub-groups as per specialisation. The dashboard contains State and district- wise information about the number of human resources available from each group, along with the contact details of respective State and district nodal officers. The platform provides anytime anywhere onsite delivery of training material material/modules accessible through any device (mobile/laptop/desktop). The platform has 14 courses with 53 modules, which include 113 videos and 29 documents,’’ said an Empowered Committed-4 release.

COVID India Seva

The Health Ministry has also launched a COVID India Seva, an interactive platform “aimed at enabling transparent e-governance delivery in real-time and answering citizen queries swiftly. Through this, people can pose queries @CovidIndiaSeva and get them responded to in almost real-time. @CovidIndiaSeva works off a dashboard at the backend that helps process large volumes of tweets, converts them into resolvable tickets, and assigns them to the relevant authority for real-time resolution,’’ noted a release issued by the Health Ministry.

The Ministry in its latest “Guidelines for Importation of Human Remains of COVID-19 Patients/Suspects’’ noted that importation of the human remains of confirmed/suspected COVID-19 case into India is not recommended and added that autopsy in confirmed COVID -19 cases is not recommended.

In Rajasthan

 Rajasthan Medical and Health Minister Raghu Sharma said, “We did rapid tests on 168 confirmed cases but only 5.4% of them tested positive for antibodies. The majority of the confirmed cases tested negative.” A committee, comprising the heads of medicine and microbiology departments of the Sawai Man Singh Medical College had used the rapid testing kits on COVID-19 positive patients to study their efficacy but they were dissatisfied with the results. “Against the expected accuracy of 90%, the kits gave only 5.4% accurate results.”

The medical staff conducting the tests had followed the protocols laid down by the ICMR. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based testing would continue to be done in an aggressive manner in the containment zones all over the State, while orders had been placed for procurement of its kits as per the demand.

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