With the current surge in COVID-19 cases, Delhi’s daily testing for the novel coronavirus is slipping. At one time, Delhi had claimed to be conducting around 1 lakh tests daily. Now a look at Delhi’s daily testing numbers on April 16 and on April 17 indicate a dismal slump in terms of the daily testing numbers pegged at 98,957 and 99,230 respectively. According to a report in IE today, these daily testing numbers further slipped to 85,000 to 90,000 and then to about 70,000 during the days between April 21 and 25. The testing number finally crashed down to 57,690 tests on April 26.
For those wondering why the testing numbers are seeing a dismal slump, the ground reality needs to be taken into consideration. To get a COVID test done has become more difficult than before as there is a surge in bookings for. With more and more people repeatedly trying to book slots for testing, it has become extremely difficult to get through with the booking. Most labs are flooded with booking related requests that home collection of samples has almost been stopped by many of these labs. It goes without saying that in the current situation, most labs are overworked now.
Which type of testing is reduced in Delhi?
On April 13, Delhi had tested around 1.08 lakh people, marking the highest number of daily tests for the city till date. From this, around 74,000 RT-PCR tests had been conducted on the same day, IE report indicates.
Over the past week, RT-PCR tests — deemed to be the gold standard in testing for COVID-19 — has fallen. A cause of worry pertaining to this is that this indicates higher chances of a person with COVID-19 infection slipping through the Rapid Antigen test than an RT-PCR test.
In Delhi, the number of RT-PCR tests have reduced to an average of around 45,000 per day during the past 6 days as compared to its earlier average of about 64,000 tests per day.
Rapid Antigen tests and RT-PCR tests: Which results are faster?
As most of you already know, both Rapid Antigen tests and RT-PCR tests are done by taking throat and nasal swabs so as to detect the virus in the collected samples.
While Rapid Antigen tests are faster, with results being made available in half an hour or so, RT-PCR test results take at least an hour to two hours. Also, the actual time taken to deliver the test report is usually much more.
Why has Delhi begun to test less?
According to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s statement on April 17, several private labs were collecting more samples than their capacity. As a result, many test reports were thus delayed.
Terming such delay as “criminal”, Delhi CM indicated that this delay could mean the difference between life and death for patients and he further ordered action against labs that collect more samples than what they could handle.
With cases surging significantly, many labs are indicating that their staff are also down with Covid-19, which makes the situation more challenging in terms of conducting a large number of daily tests. In this grim scenario, labs and their resources are already stretching beyond their capacity. With home collection almost coming to an end, the current testing numbers in Delhi have further slumped.
A worrying factor is that test reports are available only after three days of testing on average. This means a prolonged waiting time before a patient gets to know the results. In some cases, the waiting period may be much more than usual.
With labs struggling to clear their pending workload in the coming days, experts hope that reports will take less time to be made available to patients in the coming days.