The Congress on Sunday demanded that the Centre make public details about the availability of RNA extraction kits that are used in the testing for Covid-19 infection. Earlier in the day, The Indian Express had reported, quoting unidentified officials, that the country was left with only 3 lakh such kits, which would last only about a week. An RNA extraction kit is required to prepare samples for the RT-PCR test, or the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction tests, conducted to check for the coronavirus infection.
Citing the report, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said in a video briefing: “How did this situation come about? The government should make information public about the procurement, availability and supplies to state and district administrations.”
Tewari said that while health organisations were recommending 1 lakh tests a day, India was conducting only 39,000. “Is there an attempt to either play down the magnitude of the problem or is the government unsure that if we go in for enhancing the testing capacity, then it does not have the capacity to deal with its implications?” he asked, according to PTI.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India has problems with “the inadequacy of testing facilities”, and “without more aggressive facilities of testing, we are not going to conquer this menace”. Singh made the remark during a video conference of Congress leaders to talk about the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Singh heads a consultative committee set up by the party earlier this month. The panel, which also has former party chief Rahul Gandhi in it, has been discussing the Covid-19 situation in the last few days.
In a tweet, Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “act fast and clear the bottleneck” that was stopping India from scaling up from around 40,000 tests a day to 1 lakh tests a day. As of 9 am on Sunday, a total of 6,25,309 samples have been tested for Covid-19 so far, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research.
During the video conference, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said testing facilities should be scaled up. To cover 1% of the population, India needs to do “something like 10 million tests”, he said.
The party leaders also discussed the plight of migrant workers stranded in various parts of the country due to the lockdown in place to stop the transmission of the coronavirus. Rahul Gandhi said the party should have a broad framework for the protection of migrants.
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram suggested that the matter of bringing back migrants should be left to their home states, but “the bulk will have to remain where they are”. “They have to be immediately given cash and grain,” he said.
In his separate video briefing, Manish Tewari, a parliamentarian, called for a national strategy to exit the lockdown, and expressed hope that Modi would discuss a comprehensive and holistic plan in his meeting with chief ministers on Monday.
He said that if there was no national strategy, states cannot formulate plans to deal with issues post-lockdown. “We can understand the government did not have any idea of the havoc the coronavirus would create,” he said. “So some measures were taken in a jiffy. But now it has been a lot of time. So the government would now have an idea of things from medical to the human level.”