Karnataka has a backlog of 11,000 COVID-19 test samples: Here’s why

With the delayed testing, symptomatic patients and those in high risk categories are suffering, says Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy.
Karnataka has a backlog of 11,000 COVID-19 test samples: Here’s why
Karnataka has a backlog of 11,000 COVID-19 test samples: Here’s why
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On July 4, Congress legislator from Bengaluru’s Jayanagar, Sowmya Reddy had tweeted that there were over 32,000 samples collected for COVID-19 testing, which were pending. With the increasing number of cases, she had expressed concerns about patients with comorbidities and those among the high risk category, having to wait for days on end to get their test results. 

“Symptomatic patients, those in high-risk categories are being turned away from hospitals as the tests are getting delayed. People are going from one hospital to another and they are being turned away,” Sowmya Reddy said. 

The Karnataka Department of Health and Family Welfare, however, admits that there were around 40,000 samples which were pending last week due to which a separate committee was formed under the leadership of Additional Chief Secretary Shalini Rajneesh to monitor the testing of samples in the state. 

The Health Department has said that the delay in testing was only temporary as several larger labs in National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore Medical College (BMC) and Kidwai Institute were shut for three to four days. 

“These labs test 3,000 to 4,000 samples per day. There were lab technicians, who tested positive for the coronavirus here and these labs had to be shut for three to four days as the buildings had to be fumigated and sanitised before reopening," Jawaid Akthar, Additional Chief Secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Department told TNM.

“These backlogs are being cleared soon. When labs like the ones in NIMHANS and BMC shut, there itself we had a backlog of close to 4,000 samples per day. But we have begun testing again since July 3 and the backlogs are getting cleared. As of July 5 evening, there were around 11,000 samples that were yet to be tested,” said Jawaid Akthar, Additional Chief Secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Department. 

The Health Department maintains that the backlogs would be cleared by Tuesday afternoon. The Health Department had also stopped using rapid antibody testing kits. Senior officials said that the decision was taken as there were many false positives as the accuracy is only 50-60% in these rapid testing kits. 

“The Health Department keeps saying that it has beds in hospitals, COVID-19 Care Centres and adequate testing facilities. But none of these are functioning smoothly. Everyday, we are seeing patients wait for four to five days to get test results. Why haven’t all private labs been ramped up? Rapid antigen method was supposed to be used much before. Why did they not do that?” Sowmya Reddy questioned. 

The state government has placed an order of 1 lakh antigen testing kits to streamline the testing process in clusters. Antigen tests look for specific proteins only found in the novel coronavirus, which the body’s immune response recognises as foreign. These antigen tests target the spike protein in the surface of the coronavirus. However, officials refused to confirm when antigen testing would begin. 

The swab sample from the nose is taken and dipped in a solution that inactivates the virus. This is transferred to the testing strip, which shows whether a person has COVID-19. However, Health Department officials said that these tests only show whether a person is positive or not. And even if a person is not positive, they would have to undergo an RCPCR test. “RNA extraction is necessary. However, antigen tests will be helpful in testing people in clusters,” the Health Department official added. 


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