'The test has two EU CE-IVD authorizations, one from Belgium and one from Spain. It is also in the process of getting US FDA authorization.'
Amidst growing concerns and raising alarms by Indian Medical Association over imminent and inevitable 3rd wave of COVID, India’s leading emerging tech prototyping agency Advance Services for Social and Administrative Reforms(ASSAR) opens applications for global technology and healthcare companies to provide Technology, Products & Services (TPS) for instant Covid-19 testing that will give reliable results within 60 seconds. Announcing to conduct this testing tech as a commercial pilot starting with critically high value international airports of the country – Delhi and Mumbai; the pilot aims to target the two international disembarkations that have the highest risk of importing mutated variants of Covid virus in India. Prototype pilot will then extend to12 other test venues in coordination with the state governments in the same phase of pilot to make domestic & inland air-travel safe passage for transportation ahead of predicted waves and possibility of further lockdowns. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online Abhijeet Sinha, National Programme Director, Ease of Doing Business talked about the pilot Covid testing programme and more. Excerpts:
What is this Pilot is all about?
Different countries are dealing with Covid waves differently by revamping their test methods and technology so that they do not reach junctures of complete economic lockdown again. Singapore approved a breathalyzer test that results in 60 seconds, DUBAI also did its trial in March 2021. Israel has already developed and utilizes their patented photo-spectrometry test that gives more credible results in 15 seconds from gargle. India has recently witnessed a complete lockdown in Covid 2nd wave as we didn’t have any instant test method to test people at indispensable activities and allow them to travel, move or work. Now with this pilot where applicants coming from various countries with advance technologies reducing test time from minutes to few seconds now going through a speedy clearance and single window clearance for related compliance for commercialization in India
What level of rollout can be expected?
Just to make sure that such promising technology of huge significance to keep every operation open, that can afford these periodical on-spot instant tests and allow people to work, perform and be productive for their organization and overall national economy. This pilot is being conducted under Ease of Doing Business program of ASSAR to provide speedy screening of domestic and international certifications and single window clearance of permissions in India for its deployment on international airports and 12 more venues in states for domestic flights. This 30 days initial pilot – rollout is attracting high demand from more state and corporate bodies but actual deployment shall depend on orders received by technology providers to import and supply. Few states like MP recently procured 15 Lac rapid test kits from South Korea are giving faulty results contrary to Positive in RT-PCR tests. We can’t afford to let the virus spread and skip tests.
How will this test be performed at the Airport?
The test will be performed with all the bio-safety precautions taken for current point of care testing and RT-PCR. The testing process will consist of a sample collection through gargle and patient data capturing step followed by sample analysis in SpectraLIT. The test requires a saline mouth gargle and can also be performed by a nose swab. The testing process will be carried out by a NABL accredited testing partner.
How much accuracy will this test ensure?
The test has two EU CE-IVD authorizations, one from Belgium and one from Spain. It is also in the process of getting US FDA authorization. It has been tested for accuracy in several countries to be EU CE-IVD. A study in Israel and Spain showed 95% concordance with RT-PCR. A validation study in India showed 93.5% concordance with RT-PCR and need not to be re-certified by ICMR. As the test is machine learning and AI based, accuracy gets even higher as the data set grows.
If tested negative, does the patient need to undergo any other test?
If an asymptomatic individual tests negative no further test is required.
Why have you chosen Delhi and Mumbai Airports only?
We are in a land locked position with international flights on standstill. Because opening them will be high-risk to import globally mutated variants of Covid-19 virus and previous mechanisms of relying on test-reports or stopping passengers at airport to wait for RT-PCR report has miserably failed. According to ICMR 86% of vaccinated Indians who got Covid-19 were infected by the Delta variant. That is why Delhi and Mumbai are airports international arrivals are proposed to strictly deploy these tests as SepctraLIT has capability to test all global variants within seconds. It also upgrades its photo spectrometry specimen database with tests getting conducted at various other countries through AI-ML. Later these international arrivals shall have domestic footfalls too being tested at 12 other state locations and domestic airports but this shall minimize the risk of importing new variants at its infecting fully vaccinated people.
Do you think this testing activity will ensure passengers a safe journey?
Yes, SpectraLIT will help ensure a safe journey for passengers and will also help ensure cities and countries are safe from travelers coming into these areas. SpetraLIT testing is also more convenient and comfortable, so in addition to being safe, travelers will also not be subjected to discomfort due to testing or delays. SpectraLIT has applications beyond airports and travels and can help stop Covid-19 outbreaks in their tracks as well as keep the country and economy open. SpectraLIT also has tremendous applications in disease surveillance across the country. Ease of Doing Business division is in the process to conduct it with several states including hospitals, clinics, corporate and govt offices and rural areas to provide SpectraLIT as a point of care and point of need testing solution. Mumbai and Delhi are two cities that have been hit hardest in India and they are also the major hubs for international and domestic travel. There is a great need for instant Covid-19 testing at these airports. We are ready to scale out to other airports, states and cities as well.
How will this technology be beneficial?
SpectraLIT is instant, convenient, comfortable, accurate and affordable. The platform is internet connected and reports results to concerned authorities in real time, this will help the government fight Covid-19 in real-time. The SpectraLIT device is small enough to fit into the palm of the hand and can be taken anywhere. It is easy to train technicians to perform the test and it can even be deployed in a kiosk self-testing model. There is no other solution that provides such instant and accurate results and this will be a huge boon to India’s efforts to mitigate against future Covid-19 waves.