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Coronavirus update: Kerala will pursue rapid testing to detect possible community transmission of Covid-19: CM

Health experts say rapid tests involve blood rather than swab samples of patients and are quicker than the current testing technique that requires 24 to 36 hours for results. The rapid tests are much cheaper and cost between Rs 500 and 1,000 against Rs 3,500 to 5,000 in case of swab tests.

Updated: Mar 30, 2020 01:34 IST

By Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times Thiruvananthapuram

Police personnel, wearing protective masks, stop commuters during lockdown in the wake of novel coronavirus pandemic, in Kochi. (PTI File Photo)

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday announced that Kerala will pursue rapid testing to detect possible community transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the state that was the first to report the disease in the country and is the worst hit by the pandemic along with Maharashtra.

“@WHO [World Health Organization] has stressed the importance of testing in the fight against the pandemic. Kerala has decided to pursue a rapid testing for COVID-19. Blood samples of those under observation will be collected to detect possible community transmission,” Vijayan tweeted.

WHO director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on March 16 said the organisation has a simple message to all countries—test, test, test—and called mass testing the best way to slow the advance of the pandemic.

Rapid diagnostic tests have a detection time of about 45 minutes and they are especially useful in resource-limited countries like India, according to the WHO. The US last week approved the first rapid coronavirus diagnostic test as the country struggled to meet the demand for testing.



Health experts say rapid tests involve blood rather than swab samples of patients and are quicker than the current testing technique that requires 24 to 36 hours for results. The rapid tests are much cheaper and cost between Rs 500 and 1,000 against Rs 3,500 to 5,000 in case of swab tests.

The experts say in case of rapid tests, nurses can take blood samples unlike in case of swabs that need experts to collect samples. They say blood samples can be taken by the bedside of a patient unlike the swab collection that requires closed enclosures.

Dr Sreejth N Kumar, an Indian Medical Association functionary, said they have to go by the WHO guideline of test, test, test. “We have been telling the government for quite some time that rapid tests can help increase our surveillance and spot new cases outside the pool of quarantined and imported ones. It is high time for the state to ramp up its medical infrastructure,” said N Kumar.

Officials said the state is entering the next phase of surveillance foreseeing a community spread. They say when people started testing positive outside the quarantined pool and have no foreign travel history, it will be initial indications of a community spread.

The state health department has released interim treatment guidelines to deal with Covid-19 patients. As per the guideline, patients have been categorised into three segments--A to C--depending on various stages of infection. It has put out advertisements in major newspapers and electronic media to raise awareness about the disease.

Officials said as the state is getting ready for a long haul, it has ramped up its efforts to enhance the medical infrastructure and approached premier institutes like the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram for ventilators and reclining beds.

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