The Indian Council of Medical Research on Monday said the order for five lakh coronavirus rapid testing kits from Chinese companies has been delayed again, the Hindustan Times reported. 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 those may arrive on April 15.
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 expected to start production of 20,000 rapid testing kits a day at its Manesar factory this week.
However, neither the health ministry nor ICMR have given any reason for the delay in the receipt of kits. “We cannot comment on whether our Chinese consignment of rapid testing kits got diverted to the United States, or somewhere else because we neither maintain commercial data nor are we manufacturers who would know where our supplies are going,” Raman R Gangakhedkar, the head of epidemiology and communicable disease division at ICMR, told the newspaper. “Kits are coming and we have been told that some of them should reach us by April 15.”
Ever since several Chinese rapid testing kits failed quality standard tests, the country’s regulator, the National Medical Products Administration, has imposed curbs on its export, allowing only five or six companies to sell them, an unidentified official of the medical body told the Hindustan Times.
“Quality control is important, as there is no point in getting a product and then realising it is of no use,” he added. “ The products from China have to be cleared by their local regulator, and we will also conduct tests in batches to check their accuracy on a random basis.”
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, ICMR 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. On Saturday, Gangakhedkar had assured the Indian government that the kits will be received in a couple of days.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced that the lockdown will be extended till May 3, and said that new guidelines on the extended lockdown will be released on Wednesday. India has reported 10,363 coronavirus cases and 339 deaths as of Tuesday morning.