The number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) tests carried out in India crossed 2 million on Thursday, doubling in 12 days.
“Our target was to cross 2 million tests by the end of May, but we have done it two weeks ahead of our goal. With 504 laboratories, including 359 Government laboratories and 145 private ones, doing Covid-19 tests, we have also crossed the daily capacity of 100,000 tests,” Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said.
At this level, India has tested around 1,540 people per million of its population, much higher than the 94.5 per million population it was testing in late March but still far lower than the tests per million in other countries. In the US, Spain, Russia, the UK, and Italy, the corresponding numbers are 31,080; 52,781; 42,403; 32,691; and 45,246 respectively.
The doubling rate of infections has slowed to 13.9 days, from 11.1 days over the past 14 days, the minister said. “The fatality rate is 3.2%, and the recovery rate has further improved to 33.6%, up from 32.83% on Wednesday. There are 3% of active cases in ICUs, of which 0.39% are on ventilators and 2.7% on oxygen support,” he added.
Testing for Covid-19 has increased fivefold since April 1, when the cumulative number of people tested was 38,914, and daily testing is expected to cross 100,000 tests a day, from 5,580 a day on April 1. Covid-19 is diagnosed using Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) assay, which is the only diagnostic test for Covid-19 approved by the World Health Organization.
“India now has enough back-up resources to sustain and scale up testing comfortably at the present growth rate, if needed. We have reduced our dependence on imports substantially and with local manufacturing rising, there are no shortages. We have enough testing kits, RNA extraction kits, VTMs (viral transport medium) and other components to last us till July,” said CK Mishra, secretary, environment, and co-chair of the PM’s high-level committee on preparedness for a medical emergency.
RT-PCR is used for qualitative detection of genetic material called Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) from Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and is the most accurate diagnostic test for infection, while other tests, such as rapid antibody and Elisa tests, are surveillance tools that cannot test for current infection.
“All our efforts, including our partnership with Serum Institute of India, have had a clear focus on making indigenous kits available at scale. Our scale-up of production capacity to 2 lakh kits a day is a testament to the prime minister’s vision of an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). We are at a stage where we should be able to take care of India’s domestic demand, if needed,” said Hasmukh Rawal, managing director, Mylab Discovery Solutions, which was the first lab in India to receive approval to manufacture RT-PCR testing kits.
The National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi now has a COBAS-6800 high-volume testing platform with a high throughput of testing around 1,200 samples in 24 hours.
“The focus now is on strengthening the testing capability of states with low capacity by identifying regional labs to establish high-throughput PCR platforms for quality testing, getting private labs running, and if needed, getting an overflow of samples tested picked up for testing at other centres,” said Mishra.
To build capacity in underserved regions, the Union government has sent 15 TrueNAT (RT-Micro PCR) machines to Bihar, where they can be set up in medical colleges to ramp up diagnosis. This is a small battery-operated micro-PCR platform that can run 32 to 48 samples in a day and produces results in one hour; it can be used in low-resource rural settings.
Till Thursday, the total number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the country stood at 81,859 and deaths at 2,578. Nearly 28,000 patients had recovered from the highly infectious disease.
The 14 states/UTs that have not reported any Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Puducherry, and Telangana. Daman & Diu, Sikkim, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have not reported any case to date.