Your Space: Timely test results will help check Covid-19 spread
Residents are getting the results of RT-PCR, test for diagnosing Covid-19, as late as after five days in some cases, as it has become mandatory for selected workforce and residents are also coming forward to give swab samples. While the delay in getting test results poses risk of spread of the virus, what steps should authorities take to streamline the system and ensure timely delivery of diagnosis report?
Increase testing centres
Delayed RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test results are causing a lot of hardship to people. Flights are missed and asymptomatic people pose risk of Covid infection spread. The government should set up more testing centres and take steps to speed up the process for timely release of results. Also, they must have rapid antigen testing (RAT) done to identify positive cases and contain the spread. It’s because of the delay that people are resorting to fake reports.
Zilla parishad should arrange testing camps
To undergo RT-PCR test was a challenge in our neighbourhood. There are private players who were overloaded since the government mandated the test for all staff and vendors. Hardly any private partner was taking samples. The situation improved when the Covid test mandate was removed. The cost charged by private vendors is more than the government regulated rates. Few vendors are charging ₹1,000.
We request the zilla parishad to set up more testing centres, mobile vans for RT-PCR and antigen testing near big housing societies or at ward level. This will serve the purpose of getting tests done at the earliest and avoid delays which may worsen with respect to infected residents and their close contacts.
We also struggled to get our workforce, housekeeping staff and security tested. Even the gram panchayat team approached us that they will conduct door-to-door test for residents who show symptoms, but later denied due to shortage of staff. We appreciate if testing resources and manpower is increased by the zilla parishad.
Delay in test results affected our business
Following the directive from authorities for mandatory RT-PCR test for hotel staff, we arranged our staff to undergo the Covid test. However, the reports came after four days as the lab cited overload of cases. This long delay affected our business and caused apprehension among staff. It would be better if the agencies concerned launch mobile van facility for carrying out the Covid tests and release results in time.
Test is sometimes bothersome for residents
RT-PCR is just a formality asked by hospitals and families are pressurised to get it done if they want to admit their already sick members. I understand that the medical facilities are also under pressure, but why put that on our heads. It is obvious that a person will seek admission only because his symptoms are worst and yet the hospitals will admit only after the test. Doing the test is fine, but the time lost in getting the result is bad for those suffering. People are afraid and it would be better if the officials ease off on not asking for these tests when the patient is getting worse and symptoms can be visibly seen.
Test should only be for symptomatic cases
Given the present huge turnaround time for RT-PCR tests, the recent guideline by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) to enable rapid antigen test (RAT) for non-symptomatic and inter-state travellers should be strictly followed, as RAT is time efficient. RT-PCR should be applied only for symptomatic cases, thereby reducing the load on diagnostic centres. The local authorities should also find viable ways to cut down the time lag between sample collection at hospitals and transporting to the testing lab. Very few hospitals have their own in-house test facility.
Self-discipline should be top priority
Self-discipline in following the Corona protocol and vaccination is the best way to restrict the spread of Covid. Imposing RT-PCR tests on all and sundry will result in overload of system and might deprive those who urgently need to test. We need to identify and set up micro containment zones and enforce strict regulations for these zones.
Col KD Pendharkar (retd)