A health worker attends to a person while conducting Covid-19 tests in Mayur Vihar on Saturday.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
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‘Dragon is alive’: HC tells Delhi govt to rework test

The court also directed the Delhi government to set up Covid-19 testing centres at inter-state bus terminals in the city within seven days for migrants who return to the city from different states.
By Richa Banka | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON SEP 01, 2020 06:32 AM IST

The Delhi High Court directed the Delhi government on Monday to rework its testing plan in order to allow the maximum number of people who are asymptomatic to undergo a Covid-19 test through swab-based lab tests (RT-PCR method), pushing for the wider use of a technique that is seen as more reliable.

The court, while expressing dissatisfaction on the number of tests being conducted, said “the Covid-19 dragon has been tamed much less slain” and “is looming large in the city and needs to be tackled on priority”. The need to ramp up testing is particularly needed since more people are being allowed to move freely.

“You (Delhi government) thought that you had slain the dragon (Covid-19). However, this dragon has several heads which is making life miserable for people. The dragon is alive and cases are rising up in the city every day,” the court said while expressing concern on the increasing number of cases in the city. “This court is therefore not satisfied with the number of testing actually being conducted on the ground by the Delhi government,” it said while hearing a plea filed by advocate Rakesh Malhotra on the ramping up of tests in the city.

A bench of justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, while asking the city government to come up with a new policy, also asked it to examine as to whether the necessity of obtaining a prescription from a private doctor for undergoing the RT-PCR should be made mandatory/optional or done away with.

The court also directed the Delhi government to set up Covid-19 testing centres at inter-state bus terminals in the city within seven days for migrants who return to the city from different states.

On August 19, the Delhi government had told the high court that it had already set up a testing centre at Anand Vihar ISBT.

On Monday, the high court said it expects the Delhi government to come up with an advisory for persons who want to get themselves tested for Covid-19 through the RT-PCR method, as long as it does not adversely impact the testing of samples sent by the government to private laboratories or the timeline within which reports are to be submitted by labs to the government.

Delhi government spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.

However, Dr Nutan Mundeja, chief of the Delhi directorate general of health services under the city government, told the court it would re-strategise the plan for testing.

Since early July, when Delhi increased its testing numbers, the city has been heavily reliant on antigen tests, which are done through swabs as well, but are on-the-spot at health centres and testing camps.

Over the past week, at least seven of every 10 tests conducted in the city has been using the rapid antigen method. This proportion has been largely consistent throughout August.

Daily tests in Delhi also appear to have hit a plateau. The seven-day average for daily tests in the city stands at 19,715 — off the peak of 21,660 for the week ending July 10.

On Monday, the health bulletin said 14,389 tests were conducted in 24 hours. To be sure, the number of tests generally reduces on Sundays and holidays.

After going through a comparative study of the sero survelliance reports, the court said that a significant portion of the population in Delhi remains asymptomatic and it is that population which would cause a silent spread of the disease, posing a serious challenge to the health system.

The court sought to know from Dr Nivedita Gupta of the ICMR whether the strategy with respect to testing in Delhi can be changed. To this, Gupta said ICMR is only an advisory body and is going to come out with new guidelines.

She, however, clarified, that its guidelines do not stop any state government in coming out with their own rules. Citing an example of Punjab, Gupta said the state government had done away with the need for a prescription to getting tests conducted. She said Maharashtra has also tweaked its (ICMR) rules according to its own needs.

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