Mumbai: Test kits to diagnose Coronavirus cases are not being manufactured in India currently and obtaining kits from abroad has been a challenge because of the airlines being in lockdown and travel bans imposed by the government for several nations, Thyrocare Technologies Limited, a chain of diagnostic and preventive care laboratories, has said.
Speaking to CNBC-TV18, the company urged the government to allow airlifting of COVID-19 test kits considering the health emergency and to increase the scale of testing to cover thousands of people.
Until now, India has had a very restrictive testing policy, which has resulted in among the lowest testing rates in the world. This despite the World Health Organisation urging all countries to ramp up their coronavirus testing to try to reduce the severity of the pandemic. The Indian Council of Medical Research had said on March 13 that 5900 people had been tested in India.
But considering the rising number of cases and fears of community transmission of the virus, the testing protocol may change in the coming days. According to a report in the Times of India, 50 to 60 private labs accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Laboratories (NABL) will be allowed to do the tests.
Thyrocare officials said that the government will first have to clear the material required for COVID-19 tests. They said that the Mumbai civic body, BMC, has already written to ICMR to allow 10 private labs to start testing. “Discussions with vendors are underway with respect to private labs testing for COVID-19,” an officials said.
The official also voiced concern about the low testing in India, saying that the government had put too many conditions to test a person in a government facility, and as a result, capacity of government facilities were underutilised.
Coronavirus has so far caused three deaths in the country and infected at least 126 people. Many experts fear the number of infected people may be much higher, but the government has simply failed to detect them because of its limited testing.
The Indian government has restricted coronavirus tests to only those with recent travel history to affected countries or those known to have come in contact with confirmed cases as well as with symptoms of the disease.
Coronavirus testing is currently of two types: blood-based and swab based. While the blood-based test is expected to cost around Rs 700, the swab-based one could cost around Rs 6,000. Officials said that the government should regulate the cost of testing if private labs are roped in as the costs are still high as the volumes are still low.