BMC to extend rapid antigen testing across civic peripheral hospitals and dispensaries in Mumbai

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Updated on Aug 28, 2020 01:39 AM IST
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ByRupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai

To further boost Covid-19 testing in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to start Covid-19 diagnosis using rapid antigen testing kits across all civic-run peripheral hospitals and dispensaries.

Since July, BMC has conducted more than 80,000 rapid antigen tests.

In the next stage, to ramp up testing at secondary healthcare facilities, BMC will provide 500-1,000 rapid testing kits to all 175 civic-run dispensaries. Alongside, testing will also be initiated at 16 peripheral hospitals.

“So far, most tests are being conducted at Covid care centres (CCC) and hospitals. Now, to test more people, we have decided to allow antigen testing at dispensaries and peripheral hospitals,” said Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner, BMC.

For this purpose, more than 70 laboratory technicians have been trained in the first phase at the three major civic-run hospitals — King Edward Memorial (KEM), BYL Nair and Lokmanya Tilak General hospitals.

“Our priority will be to test people with symptoms. Then we will test close contacts of positive patients,” added Kakani.

BMC conducts more than 2,000 antigen tests daily. In the first instalment, the civic body procured 1 lakh antigen testing kits. Now, as 80% of the kits have been used, BMC has placed an order to procure another 50,000 kits.

Health activists have welcomed the civic body’s move. Dr Ravikant Singh, health activist, said, “Even though the Covid-19 case curve has flattened in the city, it is important to stretch testing facilities in all corners of the city so that the civic body doesn’t lose any patient. This will also provide better access to people to get tested faster.”

Till August 25, BMC has conducted a total of 725,519 tests that include antigen and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests, of which 137,678 individuals have been diagnosed with Covid-19, bringing down the positivity rate to 18.97% from 23% in July.

Dr Abhijit More, co-convenor of non-profit Jan Arogya Abhiyan, said, “It is a welcome move by BMC, but they shouldn’t rely only on rapid antigen. The test often provides false negative reports which can prove disastrous and contribute in spreading the infection further. A balance should be maintained between RT-PCR and antigen testing.”

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