Private labs in city operating with full force

New Delhi: With Delhi testing over 20,000 people for COVID-19 almost on a daily basis, private pathology laboratories here which have ICMR-approval to conduct Coronavirus tests have been unleashed and are now operating at almost full capacity. And this increase has come in the last few weeks when regulations and price caps with respect to private testing had stabilised after months of dilly-dallying.

At a private lab in Manipal Hospital, an average of 75 tests is conducted per day. "The number of tests depends on the capacity each lab has. We come in a middle-grade lab so we normally do around 70 to 75 samples per day on an average," Dr Navin Kumar, Head of Clinical Microbiology and Infection Prevention at the hospital told Millennium Post.

The hospital started testing in May but had initially limited itself to only collecting samples from people who visited the hospital. "When the State and Central government asked private labs to scale up testing that's when we put in more effort and resources to increase tests,"

he added.

Meanwhile, at Fortis Hospital, a private lab SRL Diagnostics has been conducting tests and claims to have conducted about 1,50,000 COVID-19 tests so far using real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) and CB-NAAT technique, both of which are considered to be confirmatory in nature and the gold-standard for diagnosing the contagious disease.

"We were amongst the first few private labs chosen by ICMR to conduct COVID -19 testing. We started testing from the last week of March," said Arindam Haldar, CEO at SRL Diagnostics, which has six labs for COVID-19 testing all over the country.

Besides RT PCR and CB-NAAT techniques, the lab is also conducting the SARS-CoV-2 Antibody detection test and Rapid Antigen tests. However, at Manipal Hospital rapid testing is not conducted due to a lack of kits.

"Primarily for diagnosis, the main test is RT-PCR, which we are doing. Other than, we have also started the antigen testing, which just came two

weeks back from now. Rapid testing we are ready to do but the kits are not available, so that

has not yet started," Dr Kumar said.

Although rapid antigen tests have started and have been applauded for speeding up the test-track process, experts feel RT-PCR is the standard procedure for conducting tests. "While these tests will help in providing quicker

results, RT-PCR still remains the gold standard procedure in detecting the infection. With that being said, as of now the large private labs like SRL have scaled up sufficient capacity, which is currently partially used and they are also willing and committed to increasing their capacity even further, provided there is a conducive

environment and fair expectations from the authorities," added Haldar.

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