Centre nudges Bihar to scale up Covid-19 testing as number of cases rise
Bihar’s case doubling period was eight days (as on May 19) against the national average of 13.28 days. It was testing 466 out of every 1 million people, as of May 21.Updated: May 23, 2020 19:02 IST
The Centre has decided to provide additional testing equipment to Bihar in an effort to scale up their testing for coronavirus as the number of infections in the state grew by an average 13% every day in the last one week, officials said Saturday.
An empowered group of officers (EG-2), created by the Central government to implement Covid-19 containment measures in the country, has recommended strengthening testing capability at the ICMR-Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (RMRIMS) in Patna.
It cleared the decks for equipping the RMRIMS with a ‘Cobas 6800’, a high-throughput instrument for conducting real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR), which is a confirmatory test for Covid-19. The instrument will be dispatched from ICMR-Bangalore in a couple of days.
“The instrument will allow the RMRIMS to test 1,000 samples a day. It is likely to be dispatched in a couple of days from ICMR-Bangalore,” said CK Mishra, secretary, ministry of environment, forest and climate change, also the head of the Centre’s EG-2 on Covid-19. This group looks after medical aspects like testing, hospital preparedness and critical care. The Central government has created 11 empowered groups of officers for Covid-19 management.
“We have also sent 22 TrueNat machines to Bihar, while also facilitating ICMR’s approval to a private testing lab in Patna for conducting RT PCR tests. With these, Bihar will be able to selectively test little more samples,” said Mishra.
He said the high positivity of cases to samples tested in Bihar was little worrying. Bihar’s positivity of cases was around 12% as compared to the national average of 5%. However, with increased testing and better contact tracing, the state can do well to contain the spread of the virus, Mishra added.
“In the last one week, (May 15-May 21), the number of new infections has grown by an average 13% every day,” said Bihar’s principal secretary, health, Uday Singh Kumawat.
Bihar’s case doubling period was eight days (as on May 19) against the national average of 13.28 days. It was testing 466 out of every 1 million people, as of May 21.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has already asked his officers to ramp testing from an average 2,000 to 10,000 per day. The state had tested a total of 2,920 samples on Thursday after eight health facilities in districts were recently equipped with TrueNat and CB-NAAT machines.
Seventeen out of every 1 million people have now tested positive for the virus in the state, with the migrants accounting for almost 59% of the state’s total Covid-19 cases, which was 2,263 on Saturday afternoon. Eleven people infected by the virus have died so far.
As of now, the RMRIMS has a capacity to test 800 to 1,000 samples a day.
“Once we get the Cobas 6800 instrument, we will be able to test 1,800 samples in a day,” said its director, Pradeep Das.
“The instrument requires negative-pressure room (Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms, which help maintain clean conditions). We are talking to different air-conditioning firms and it may take us a week or so to have the system in place,” said Das.
Meanwhile, the ICMR has given its nod to the Sen Diagnostics Pvt Ltd in Patna to conduct RT PCR tests. This is in addition to the Dr Lal Path Labs in Patna and the Path Kind Diagnostics Pvt Ltd in Patna and Muzaffarpur.
“We are arranging to have the system functional soon after creating a separate kiosk for collection of swab samples. We will conduct the confirmatory test for Rs 3,000,” said Dr Sandeep Sen, director of the Sen Disgnostics.