NEW DELHI :
India is set to get the first lot of the much-needed rapid antibody test kits from China for quick detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes covid-19. The kits were despatched from Guangzhou airport on Thursday morning.
The surge in the number of cases despite the stringent measures, including a 40-day nationwide lockdown, has been a cause for worry the government.
“#IndiaFightsCoronavirus: A total of 650,000 kits, including rapid anti-body tests and RNA extraction kits, have been despatched early today from Guangzhou Airport to #India,” tweeted Vikram Misri, Indian ambassador to China.
More kits are expected in the coming weeks, an Indian official in New Delhi said, requesting anonymity.
As many as 300,000 rapid antibody testing kits from Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and 250,000 from Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics, besides 100,000 RNA extraction kits from MGI Tech from Shenzhen were cleared by Chinese customs late on Wednesday and have been despatched on Thursday, said another person familiar with the matter, also requesting anonymity.
“Our embassy in Beijing and consulate in Guangzhou played a key role” in securing the test kits for India, he said.
The foreign ministry is “also providing all necessary assistance for further supplies of testing kits from South Korea. Firm quotations have been obtained from companies in the UK, Malaysia, France, Canada and the US. We have also obtained leads from companies in Germany and Japan,” the person said.
“Indian missions are also closely coordinating with concerned agencies for supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) kits. A large consignment is expected shortly,” the person added.
The rapid antibody testing kits help examine whether a person has developed antibodies in his or her blood stream to fight the SARS-CoV-2, which indicates whether a person has been exposed to or has covid-19.
The results of these tests take around 30 minutes.
Doctors and healthcare workers can then determine the number of people who could be infected in a population sample.
In recent days, there have been calls from several quarters to ramp up testing in India, though the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said that this was not necessary.
India has so far conducted only around 200,000 tests, which is seen as limited in scale vis-a-vis the country’s population of around 1.3 billion.
Further spread of the pandemic could severely burden the healthcare infrastructure of the country.
So far, India has relied on the definitive RT-PCR, or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction tests, which involve taking a throat swab.
India is in the middle of a lockdown, first announced on 24 March for 21 days, which was subsequently extended by another 19 days earlier this week.
The government, however, has announced plans for a calibrated restart of economic activity from 20 April, albeit with strict restrictions such as compulsory social distancing and use of face masks.
On Wednesday, the central government said there were 170 covid-19 hotposts across the country with another “207 districts that have reported covid positive cases and could be a potential hotspot” and asked states to take “pre-emptive action for cluster containment in all these districts”.
The “hotspots” have been divided into two categories—123 districts with “large outbreaks” and 47 districts classified as “clusters”. A district could be excluded from the hotspot category if no cases are reported for 28 days.