Covid-19: Court pulls up Delhi government for using more rapid antigen tests as case numbers drop
The Delhi High Court asked how the AAP government could use these tests when its rate of false negatives was very high.
The Delhi High Court on Monday pulled up the Aam Aadmi Party government for choosing Rapid Antigen Testing, RAT, which has a high rate of false negative results, over the RT/PCR or Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, testing method, reported Live Law. Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad made the observations while hearing a writ petition by Rakesh Malhotra seeking directions to the Delhi government to ramp up testing in the national Capital.
The High Court cited the serological survey carried out by the National Centre for Disease Control to question the government’s decision to go with rapid tests. The survey revealed that 23.48% of Delhi residents had antibodies – that is, they may have at some point been exposed to the coronavirus. The survey was conducted between June 27 and July 10, and a total of 21,387 samples were collected from 11 districts to test for antibodies.
In such a scenario how can the Delhi government go with RAT as its frontline test, when its rate of false negatives was very high, the court asked, according to PTI.
The court also pointed out that the Delhi government was conducting only 6,000 RT/PCR tests daily when it has the capacity to carry out 11,000 such tests. The Indian Council of Medical Research recommends the RT/PCR test and never said that it can be replaced with the rapid antigen test, said Nivedita Gupta of the medical research body.
The Delhi government’s additional standing counsel, Satyakam, told the bench that the health department was strictly adhering to ICMR guidelines. He added that the Delhi government has included people showing influenza like illness as well as those having severe acute respiratory illness, SARI, in its list high risk group individuals who have to first undergo rapid testing.
But Nivedita Gupta said people suffering from severe acute respiratory illness must be tested directly through RT/PCR.
The court then asked the Delhi government to amend its orders issued on July 5 and July 9 by deleting any reference that SARI patients were required to undergo rapid testing. It also asked the Delhi government to strictly follow the guidelines on Covid-19 testing as issued by the ICMR.
The court’s observations came on a day when Delhi registered 613 new cases and 26 deaths – a significantly low figure. Delhi, which was at one point the worst-affected city in India, now has less than 11,000 active cases.