The Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by health minister Harsh Vardhan, met to review the preparations and deliberate on the way ahead.
WHILE THE Centre seeks to scale up testing for Covid-19 to one lakh samples per day, sources said only about 3 lakh RNA extraction kits are left. With over 38,000 samples being tested on an average daily, the stock is just enough to last about a week.
The RNA extraction kits are required to prepare samples for the RT-PCR test — one kit per test. This comes at a time when serological tests, or rapid antibody tests, have been suspended across the country following complaints of varying levels of accuracy.
“We are pushing for acquiring the kits quickly and have placed orders with various vendors. We are hoping to get at least a million each of both the RNA extraction kits and the viral transport medium kits, with the supplies starting soon. The problem is that the RT-PCR kits cannot be used without the RNA extraction kits,” said a source. Some states like Madhya Pradesh have already flagged the dwindling stock of RNA extraction kits.
An RNA extraction kit, as the name suggests, extracts the RNA from the virus — the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a single-stranded RNA virus — for running the RT-PCR test, which compares the composition of the RNA to test the identity of the virus. India is also planning to use TB testing machines to ramp up RT-PCR capacity.
In a recent paper in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) estimated that moving to a 24-hour working model would enhance daily testing capacity to 40,464 samples. This could be increased to 1 lakh to 1.20 lakh by using machines available with various organisations such as NACO and the National TB Elimination programme.
“Using combination/ multiplex kits, and provision of automated RNA extraction platforms at all laboratories could also optimise run time and contribute to capacity increase by 1.5-2 times,” the ICMR scientists wrote. However, the shortage of RNA extraction kits could hamper these plans to ramp up testing. Meanwhile, 1,490 new cases and 56 deaths were reported on Saturday, taking the total tally to 24,942 cases (5,209 recovered) and 779 deaths. The ICMR said a total of 5,79,957 samples had been tested so far.The government on Saturday also said the daily growth rate of new cases has dipped to 6%, which is the lowest since the country crossed 100 cases.
The Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by health minister Harsh Vardhan, met to review the preparations and deliberate on the way ahead. A detailed presentation on the COVID-19 situation across the country, along with the response and management, was made. GoM was informed that over 1lakh PPEs and N95 masks are being manufactured in the country daily. Currently, there are 104 domestic manufactures of PPEs and three making N95 masks. Domestic manufacturers have also started production of ventilators and orders have been placed for over 59,000 units through nine manufacturers.