Unaware of the new testing guidelines for COVID-19, a number of people, including those in need of a negative RT-PCR report to be able to work, are being turned away from testing centres in Delhi and surrounding areas.
According to the Centre’s new guidelines, asymptomatic patients do not need to undergo a test. Also, contacts of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients do not require a test unless they have comorbidities or are aged above 60.
Neha Madal, who works as a domestic help in Mayur Vihar, needed a negative RT-PCR report to be able to work in households.
“Some of the societies allow us to work only after we furnish a negative RT-PCR report. When I visited a COVID-19 testing centre, they said I cannot undergo testing because I am asymptotic. It has impeded my work,” Mandal said.
Laxmi, a resident of Lajpat Nagar, got a cold and cough, and thought of getting a test done to be on the safe side.
“I consulted my doctor who said it could be due to a change in weather but I wanted to be sure and went to a nearby testing centre. They denied a test, saying I should monitor my health for a week,” she claimed.
A senior government official said that district authorities in Delhi have received instructions to conduct tests of symptomatic persons and those eligible under the new guidelines.
“Even high-risk people like family members may not be tested unless they have symptoms. International travellers can get tested after producing flight tickets,” the official said.
On Thursday, Delhi had recorded 28,867 COVID-19 cases, the sharpest single-day spike since the beginning of the pandemic, when the city conducted 98,832 tests.
However, Friday’s figure of coronavirus cases came out of 79,578 tests, with a senior government official saying the drop in cases may be due to lower testing.
Shreya Raman, whose friend contracted coronavirus two days ago, was turned away on Saturday because she did not have any symptoms.
“My friend and I live in the building and visit each other frequently, so, I thought I should also get tested. Now, I will never know if it has already spread in my house,” Raman, a resident of Jangpura, said.
On Saturday, in some parts of south Delhi, symptomatic people were also turned away for the lack of a doctor’s prescription.
Vikas Verma, 26, visited the COVID-19 testing centre at Nehru Homeopathic Medical College and Hospital in Defence Colony, complained of cough and fever.
Verma said his sister tested positive for COVID-19 a few days ago but the staff turned him away citing the new guidelines issued by the government.
“They checked my temperature, and said that I was okay and did not need to undergo testing. When I insisted, they asked me to bring a doctor’s prescription,” he said.
“Last year, when I didn’t even have symptoms, I got a test done without any problem,” Verma, a resident of Lodhi Colony, said, adding he did not know about the new testing guidelines.
Shimla Devi, 56, a contractual employee in a public bank, complained of a runny nose and fever, but was denied a test for lack of a doctor’s prescription.
“I can’t afford a test in a private laboratory. Without a test report, the bank won’t give me medical leave,” she said.
Responding to it, a senior officer in the Delhi Health Department said that such centres will be asked to stick to the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Sunny Mahajan, a Gurgaon resident, wanted to get tested after his wife turned out to be positive for coronavirus.
“Earlier when one person tested positive in the family, others could get themselves tested to rule out any infection and then take treatment or precautions accordingly. But now even when my wife has tested positive, I cannot get tested as I am asymptomatic. Is it necessary that one needs to be gasping for breath just to get a test done,” he asked.
Private laboratories are also ensuring that only those who fulfil the criteria are tested.
“People wanting to take a RT-PCR test are being asked to register on our website. They are required to provide information about symptoms, comorbidities and if they need to get tested for travel requirements. Ninety-five per cent of the people taking the tests fulfil the criteria,” said Arjun Dang, CEO, Dr Dangs Lab.
Resident Welfare Associations have also been receiving a number of calls from people not being able to get tested.
“We receive dozens of calls from people these days who do not get tested for COVID-19 at test centres. The authorities ensuring testing should be liberal. People feel assured after getting tested, and it’s also important for taking precautions and preventing the spread of infection.
“Restricting testing even when people are ready to pay for it cannot be justified,” said Ashok Bhasin, the president of North Delhi Residents Welfare Federation.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain had on Thursday expressed hope that the cases might start declining soon.
The increase in cases can be attributed to the increase in the number of tests in Delhi, he had said on a day when the Delhi had recorded 28,867 infections after conducting nearly one lakh tests.
Jain had also welcomed the Centre’s new guidelines for COVID-19 testing, saying “If you do not have any symptoms, are aged below 60 and do not have any comorbidity, you do not need to get tested.”