Several Delhi hospitals are not testing people with no foreign travel history for coronavirus despite symptoms linked to the deadly disease, which has killed over 6,000 people across the world. According to reports, hospitals are turning away such people as, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research, those tested positive for coronavirus in India have either travelled to the affected countries or had contracted the virus from those who returned from abroad.
Over 100 people in India are found to be infected with the virus. Two people have died because of it. But the ICMR, a government of India body, has said all the people with such symptoms must not be tested for coronavirus, as there has been no “community transmission” in India. “Community transmission” is when it is impossible to trace from where a patient has got the disease.
“The disease is primarily reported in individuals with travel history to affected countries or close contacts of positive cases. Therefore, all individuals need not be tested,” the ICMR guideline said.
A man, who returned from Delhi’s RML hospital without a coronavirus test despite symptoms, told NDTV: “For the last several days, I have been suffering from cold, cough and fever, so I went to the RML hospital to get the test done. But they just sent me back without a test, saying they are only checking those who have travelled abroad or are related to such people”.
He said he went to other government hospitals but was asked to go back to the RML hospital. “Next day I went again to RML but was given the same answer. I still have cough and cold. Where do I go?” he said.
The man has been quarantined for 14 days by his employer as precaution.
Sanjeeva Kumar, special secretary in the union health ministry, today said India is utilising only 10 per cent of its capacity to test coronavirus.
“Covid-19 tests are free for all Indians. We have a much higher capacity but currently we are only utilising 10 percent of it. For health workers, we are buying more than 80 lakh masks and safety equipment,” he said.
Experts have criticised this approach.
“If people don’t know that they have the disease they will be out in the community spreading the disease. The South Korea model is to ensure that all those who have it should know and quarantine themselves. We need to take the same approach. We are capable in both public and private sector but the question is whether we are deploying that capacity,” Ramanan Lakshminarayan, founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) said.
“The government said that they are capable of doing 10,000 tests daily because they have 1 lakh test kits and so many centres. But why should we wait to do those tests? We should be doing tens of thousands of tests every day currently because today we can. Later when the virus spreads, we may not have the capacity to handle that many cases.”