Mamata govt not sending enough samples for Covid-19 testing, says central lab director
West Bengal government is not sending enough samples for Covid-19 testing, claims ICMR’s nodal testing facility in Kolkata, the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED).
“There is a big drop last week we didn’t even have 20 samples per day. Number of samples being sent is determined by the state government, so if they send more samples, we are able to test more. I think sample collection has not been as per the recommendation. So number tests being done in Bengal is also less,” claimed Dr Shanta Dutta, Director, ICMR-NICED.
Speaking to India Today TV, Dr Dutta said the flow of samples has not been “equal from the very beginning”.
“Initially we were the only centre which was doing the testing and at that time we would receive 90-100 samples in a day. Now there are other centres, so the number of samples being sent to NICED is less,” Dutta added.
Responding to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s complaints about lack of testing kits in West Bengal, Dutta said ICMR has dispatched 42,500 kits to NICED so far.
“There is no shortage. We are the depot or warehouse for the kits in eastern India. So far, we have received 42,500 kits in three consignments from ICMR. Apart from state-run medical college hospitals in Bengal, we have dispatched some to Odisha and Port Blair as well. At present we have 27,000 kits in our stock,” she told India Today TV.
The NICED director further claimed that 7,500 testing kits have been given to the West Bengal government so far. According to the state health department’s daily coronavirus bulletin issued on April 12, 2020, a total of 2,523 tests have been conducted in the state till now.
Asked if the government prefers sending samples to the state-run testing labs that have become operational, Dutta said, “This is the regional Virus Research Diagnostic Lab (VRDL), so our infrastructure is bigger, we have more staff and better equipment. In fact, people in other testing centers have been trained by us so they are now able to do the testing themselves.”
Emphasizing on the need to scale up testing and sample collection, given Bengal’s population density, Dutta said, “According to ICMR’s recommendation, number of tests from Bengal should be increased. Even ICMR has changed its strategy for testing samples. Initially samples were collected only from symptomatic cases and their contacts but now everyone who may be a contact, even if they are asymptomatic, must be tested.”
Health workers, even if they are asymptomatic should be tested regularly along with patients suffering from Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) and Influenza Like Illness (ILI), she said.