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Increase no. of RT-PCR tests: HC

Increase no. of RT-PCR tests: HC

New Delhi: Citing that rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 were only 60 per cent accurate and that in the last one week RT-PCR tests accounted for less than one-fourth the number of total tests, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday suggested that the Delhi government "ought to focus on shoring up the capacity of testing through RT/PCR so that testing is increased through RT/PCR as much as possible".

The court suggested that RT-PCR tests should account for at least 50 per cent of the total testing numbers.

The bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad also asked an expert committee, set up by the Lieutenant Governor (LG), to convene a meeting on a priority basis to consider the extent to which the capacity of RT-PCR testing should be ramped up. At present, the sanctioned strength of conducting RT/PCR is 14,000 per day in Delhi.

The high court expressed concern over the continuous rise in COVID-19 cases, with nearly 4,500 new infections reported on Wednesday.

RT-PCR, short for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a laboratory technique widely used in the diagnosis of genetic diseases and to measure gene expression in research and is considered the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19.

The court directed the Delhi government to file a status report along with a report of the expert committee in this regard and listed the matter for further hearing on September 30, by which time the high court also sought the results of the September serosurvey along with a comparative analysis of all three surveys conducted so far.

While the Delhi government counsel Satyakam assured the court that authorities would consider increasing RT-PCR testing, he also defended the Delhi government's rationale for relying on increased rapid antigen tests, citing quicker results. To this, the court said as RAT mostly gives false negative reports, there is no reason the government should wait for it and then go to the next level of RT-PCR. Instead, it should shore up to RT-PCR capacity.

The court was told that of 435 mohalla clinics in Delhi, 400 were functional and 50-60 of them were conducting COVID-19 tests after completing their OPDs. The bench said it was of the view that not only mohalla clinics, but community centres shall also be roped in for setting up testing facilities as cases of COVID-19 are shooting up on a daily basis.

The court was hearing a PIL by advocate Rakesh Malhotra, seeking increased COVID-19 testing in the Capital.

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