In Arvind Kejriwal’s defence of new Covid-19 testing norms, a warning about system collapse

Updated on Jun 06, 2020 09:11 PM IST

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Covid-19 testing capacity in Delhi could get overwhelmed if everyone asked to be tested for coronavirus disease

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal asked asymptomatic patients not to get themselves tested for Covid-19 in New Delhi.(ANI)
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal asked asymptomatic patients not to get themselves tested for Covid-19 in New Delhi.(ANI)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | | Edited by Aloke Tikku

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday asked people in the national capital not to head to Covid-19 centres and hospitals to get themselves tested for the disease if they don’t have symptoms of the disease. The chief minister’s appeal comes days after the city government changed its testing strategy to severely restrict access to Covid-19 tests.

Under the new guidelines, direct contacts of infected people that are asymptomatic will be tested only if they have comorbidities or are senior-citizens between Day 5 and Day 10 of coming in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case. The co-morbidities listed in the order are diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. A senior citizen is one over the age of 60 years.

Kejriwal followed up the change in policy with his appeal to people, underscoring that the Covid-19 testing system in the capital could get overwhelmed if everyone was tested.

Delhi conducts the maximum Covid-19 tests among all states, the chief minister said. But it is a limited resource and was bound to fall short of the demand.

If all asymptomatic people reach hospitals and testing centres to get themselves tested, “the system will collapse,” he said, adding that he did understand that people were scared of getting the disease.

But Delhi has a population of 2 crore. If 10,000 people turn up everyday to get themselves tested, “our labs will fall short irrespective of the capacity that we may build”.

“Please don’t get yourselves tested... Please do not insist,” he said, the appeal directed to people who do not have symptoms of the disease.

Delhi’s restrictive testing policy has been faulted by doctors.

“There is no other way to know how much of your population is currently infected. In fact, if possible, make it walk-in for it to be feasible and expand the list of those who need to get tested to even asymptomatic people as many of those returning positive are asymptomatic carriers,” said Dr Lalit Kant, infectious disease specialist told Hindustan Times on Friday.

The new testing strategy is also a contrast to the city government 5T plan - testing, tracing, treatment, teamwork, and tracking - that was announced in April.

Chief Minister Kejriwal had then argued for aggressive testing.

“If you don’t test, you won’t be able to find out which houses have been affected. It will go on spreading. South Korea identified every single individual through large scale testing. We are now going to do mass testing like South Korea,” Kejriwal had said on April 7.

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