India is yet to receive any of the five lakh coronavirus rapid testing kits it has ordered from Chinese companies, the Hindustan Times reported on Sunday. As many as 2.5 lakh of the total number of kits were to be delivered by April 5, and then April 8 or April 9, but now may arrive only early next week.
India has reportedly ordered five lakh rapid testing kits from Chinese manufacturers on March 30. Several states have also been waiting to receive the kits so that they could start testing. The states have also been allowed to procure kits on their own. Meanwhile, the government-owned HLL Lifecare is set to start production of 20,000 rapid testing kits a day at its Manesar factory on Monday.
The Centre has issued an advisory on starting rapid antibody testing on April 4, and revised the testing guidelines on April 9 to include rapid testing of all symptomatic individuals in hotspot areas. However, after the April 5 date passed by, the Indian Council of Medical Research said the manufacturers had assured them that the kits would arrive by April 8 or 9.
But in the Health Ministry’s briefing on April 10, Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said: “The kits haven’t reached yet but could reach anytime now.” On Saturday, Dr R Gangakhedkar, head, epidemiology and communicable diseases at ICMR said the manufacturers had assured the Indian government that the kits will be received in a couple of days.
“The tests will show whether a person has been exposed to the virus and whether the virus is still inside the body,” Gangakhedkar added according to The Indian Express. “This has two advantages: in hotspots, it gives you an idea about the spread of the disease; and in healthcare workers, it reduces the fear factor by telling you whether the person has become immune and can get back to work.”
However, neither the ministry nor ICMR have given any reason for the delay in the receipt of kits. The Hindustan Times cited an official with knowledge of the matter saying there was an acute shortage of rapid testing kits globally. The official said that only five or six manufacturers have the export licence to manufacture these kits, and the Chinese government has imposed a cap on the quantity that can be exported.
India had by Sunday morning reported 8,356 cases of Covid-19, including 273 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Globally, the number of cases has crossed 17.7 lakh cases, and over 1.08 lakh people have died.