Coronavirus: ICMR asks states to return Chinese rapid test kits, Centre says won’t ‘lose a rupee’
Coronavirus test kits made by two Chinese companies Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics have shown wide variation in results.
The Centre on Monday said India has not paid the Chinese firms who provided faulty testing rapid testing kits for Covid-19. This came hours after Indian Council of Medical Research advised states to stop using kits produced by Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics as the results led to wide variation.
“Rapid diagnostic kits have a limited role to play,” Joint Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said at a press conference. “We followed the due process.”
The number of patients across India reached 28,380, including 886 deaths, on Friday evening. This marked an increase of 1,463 new cases in the last 24 hours.
At the briefing, Agarwal also spoke of the need to address the stigma associated with Covid-19 patients and frontline workers and said that misinformation about the disease needed to be countered. “We have to understand that there is no risk of transmission from recovered patients.” he said. “With plasma therapy, they can help other patients recover.
Separately, the government issued a press statement about the controversy. “It needs to be stressed that ICMR has not made any payment whatsoever in respect of these supplies,” it said. “Because of the due process followed [not going for procurement with 100% advance amount], government of India does not stand to lose a single rupee.”
The statement added that they conducted a tender process that received bids between Rs 1,204 and Rs 600. “Accordingly, bid offer of Rs 600 was considered,” it said.
The Centre added that testing was the only way to fight the pandemic. “ICMR is doing everything it can to ramp up testing,” it said. “This requires procurement of kits and supplying them to states. This procurement is being undertaken when globally there is huge demand for these test kits and various countries are applying their full might, monetary and diplomatic, to acquire them.”
The Indian Council of Medical Research, the country’s nodal body for coronavirus testing, said some states have pointed out problems with rapid testing kits for Covid-19. “ICMR, thereafter, also evaluated the kits of Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics in field conditions,” it said. “The results have shown wide variation in their sensitivity, despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes. In view of this, states are advised to stop using these kits procured from the above mentioned companies and return them to be sent back to the suppliers.”
Last week, ICMR had advised states not to use the kits for two days after complaints about inaccurate detection.
Meanwhile, Agarwal said India has progressively improved its recovery rate from the coronavirus pandemic to 22.17% and that 16 districts have not reported new cases in the last 28 days.
He also added that RT-PCR test, or the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction kits are available in sufficient number in India. “No dearth in terms of planning and organisation of testing kits across the country,” Agarwal said.
Joint Secretary of Home Ministry Punya Salila Srivastava said more than two crore workers have got jobs and about 60% food processing units have become operational. “The teams constituted under the National Disaster Management Act have visited various places,” she added. “In Pune, the inter-ministerial central team conducted surveys in four containment zones, shelter camps of migrant workers and other places. Pune team found that the doubling rate is 7, which is above the national average.”
Parameswaran Iyer, the chairperson of an empowered committee, said there has been an improvement in supply chain networks from March 30. “The empowered group-5 is working on easing policy, collaborating with line departments/MHA, troubleshooting bottlenecks, tracking key indicators and disseminating best practices of supply warriors,” he added.
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