Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that the Narendra Modi government delayed the import of coronavirus testing kits and therefore India’s testing levels rank even lower than least developed countries such as Laos, Niger and Honduras.

“India delayed the purchase of testing kits and is now critically short of them,” Gandhi tweeted. “With just 149 tests per million Indians, we are now in the company of Laos (157), Niger (182) & Honduras (162). Mass testing is the key to fighting the virus. At present we are nowhere in the game.”

Gandhi’s tweet came hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India had managed to keep the number of coronavirus cases at a level that was favourable compared to several rich countries. Modi also announced the extension of the ongoing nationwide lockdown till May 3.

The latest health ministry data showed the number of people infected with coronavirus in India had reached 10,815, with 353 deaths by Tuesday evening.

On Monday, the Indian Council of Medical Research had said the order for five lakh coronavirus rapid testing kits from Chinese companies has been delayed again. 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 had reportedly ordered the kits 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 the production of 20,000 rapid testing kits a day at its Manesar factory this week.

So far, neither the health ministry nor the 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, had said on Monday. “Kits are coming and we have been told that some of them should reach us by April 15.”

India has only tested just over 2 lakh individuals as of Monday 9 pm, according to data from Indian Council of Medical Research.

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