Opinion

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Scope for COVID-19 tests must be widened

Published: 00:00, May 22,2020

 
 

THE admission of an additional health secretary that 43 laboratories now used to test novel coronavirus infection are not enough, as New Age reported on Thursday, is believed to be true by experts and all. Such a small number of places that can run COVID-19 tests are not enough either to gauge the situation or to test all suspected cases. Two and a half month have passed since the first detection of COVID-19 patients on March 8 and the capability for testing has increased much, yet the inadequacy has remained. This is all too visible as hundreds of people are reported to be standing in queues in front of the designated hospitals seeking to be tested every day and most of them are turned away as the laboratories cannot run tests on all. Even though the laboratories are working for longer hours, they cannot conduct the required number of tests. Moreover, many polymerase chain reaction machines are reported not to be in use for a shortage of technicians and scarcity of the required accessories.

When there has been a worrying increase in COVID-19 infection and death for about a month, with 28,511 cases announced as of Thursday, testing inadequacy stands in the way of an effective mitigation mechanism. It is also worrying that the government has not been able to make testing facilities widely available, which could help in efforts to curb the spread of infection. Health experts have for some time now been demanding laboratories in all districts for an early detection of COVID-19 cases. People huddling together in front of the limited number of hospitals and sample collection booths and waiting there for hours only adds to the risk of the spread of COVID-19 infection as those who are not yet infected can get infected while they wait along with infected people. The demand for tests has, however, also increased as hospitals and clinics are largely reported to be refusing to treat patients for other ailments unless they produce COVID-19 negative certification. The government has repeatedly warned action against treatment refusal, but this continues to happen. The government already reported to have initiated a project to equip all district and medical college hospitals with laboratories and infection prevention centres should do it at the earliest.

The inadequacy of the testing facilities, shortage of laboratories, trained technicians, physicians and nurses suggest a negligence that the health sector has been plagued with. The health managers must now, therefore, use all their resources to widen the scope for the test of the novel coronavirus infection.

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