Congress leader Rahul Gandhi criticised the government on Tuesday for what he said was a delay on its part in the purchase of testing kits for COVID-19 and said the country is “now critically short of them”.
The comments by the former Congress president came after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Monday that the rapid testing kits, which were supposed to be in the country on April 5 and then April 10, will now reach by April 15.
These kits are being seen as the next phase of India’s strategy to combat the coronavirus disease with widespread and rapid testing not just in hot spots and containment zones but also areas relatively free of the virus.
Rapid Test Kits, or RTKs, are blood tests that search for antibodies in the sample of those tested. A positive test means the person is or has been infected by the virus.
“With just 149 tests per million Indians, we are now in the company of Laos (157), Niger (182) & Honduras (162). Mass testing is the key to fighting the virus. At present we are nowhere in the game,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
India delayed the purchase of testing kits & is now critically short of them.
With just 149 tests per million Indians, we are now in the company of Laos (157), Niger (182) & Honduras (162).
Mass testing is the key to fighting the virus. At present we are nowhere in the game.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) April 14, 2020
The Congress leader’s tweet also came on a day India recorded 10,363 coronavirus cases and 339 deaths. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced the extension of the 21-day lockdown from March 25 till May 3 to arrest the spread of the infection.
Countries around the world are looking to use these tests to determine who has immunity to the Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 apart from being a fast way to identify the extent of infections in clusters.
RTKs give out results in 30 minutes unlike the RT-PCR tests currently in use, which take up to five hours to throw up a result. However, ICMR’s protocol requires a confirmatory RT-PCR test to back up a negative RTK result.
ICMR raised a tender on April 11 for 4.5 million more rapid testing kits to be delivered in batches apart from the order for 500,000 kits that has already been placed. The plan is to have the first batch in by May 1 and the final batch latest by May 31.