The Indian Council of Medical Research on Tuesday advised states to not use rapid testing kits for Covid-19 for two days following complaints about inaccurate detection. Earlier in the day, Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said that the state would stop using the rapid test kits since they only had 5.4% accuracy, NDTV reported.

The number of coronavirus cases in India has risen to 18,985 and 603 patients have died, according to the Union health ministry’s Tuesday evening update. Of the confirmed cases, 15,122 people are undergoing treatment, 3,259 people have recovered, and one person has left the country.

Maharashtra has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country as 4,669 patients are from the state. Delhi ranks second with 2,081 patients and Gujarat follows closely with 2,066 cases.

At the Centre’s daily press briefing on Covid-19, Dr R Gangakhedkar from ICMR said that three more states were asked if they had similar complaints. “We have come to know that the positive RT-PCR [reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction] samples showed a lot of variation, 6% to 71% in some cases.”

Dr Gangakhedkar added that ICMR will send representatives on the field to bring back samples. “If the batch of rapid test kits is found to be defective, we will ask the company to replace all the kits,” he said. “We will be able to give a detailed report on this in two days. Till then, we advise the states to not use these kits.”

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West Bengal is another state that has complained about the defects in the rapid testing kits supplied by ICMR. The state government had alleged that defective kits were forcing officials to opt for multiple tests and thus delaying Covid-19 diagnosis.

Last week, India had received 5 lakh testing kits from China. ICMR had said that the testing kits were not meant for early diagnosis of Covid-19 but only for epidemiology.

In India, nasal or throat swabs of suspected Covid-19 patients are put through the RT-PCR or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test. This test looks for the presence of the coronavirus virus in the patient’s DNA. It is a complex test that takes between 12-24 hours to show results. In comparison, the antibody tests – scanning of blood samples for infection – show results within 45 minutes to two hours. It is less reliable since antibodies show up only 7-10 days after a person has been infected.

ICMR said that 4,49,810 tests for Covid-19 have been conducted in India so far. Out of these, 35,852 samples were tested on Monday.

Health ministry says no new cases in 61 districts for 14 days

During Tuesday’s briefing, the health ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said 17.48% coronavirus cases have recovered so far.

The health ministry official took note of healthcare workers testing positive along with reports of some patients being infected in hospitals. “We have issued guidelines that hospitals set up a committee,” he said. “We are asking hospitals to make a contingency plan for this. All employees at hospitals will be screened daily. We’ve asked for hospitals to ensure blood banks are stocked well.”

The health ministry said no coronavirus cases had been reported in 61 districts of India for 14 days. “Pratapgarh in Rajasthan had no case in 28 days. Several more states on the list with no cases for 14 days,” he added.

Around 80% of the global reported cases are mild or very mild, Agarwal said, adding that only 15% have severe symptoms and 5% are critical. “The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is initiating a randomised clinical trial to check the efficacy of drugs on decreasing the mortality rate in critical Covid-19 patients,” he added.

Another health ministry official, Arun Panda, said the Centre has created a Covid-19 warrior dashboard and described it as a master database of healthcare workers and volunteers on the frontline. There are over one crore warriors in the database, he added.