Private testing labs in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow city are turning away residents, saying they received “orders from the administration to not test”, even as the district reports a surge in coronavirus cases, The Economic Times reported on Saturday.

Executives from prominent collection centres such as Dr Lal Path-Labs and SRL Diagnostics were among those who told the newspaper they had been “disallowed” to do more tests, but did not say why. Other labs said they had come up against logistical constraints as a result of which they could only test samples collected at hospitals.

“We are testing samples but the demand is just too high,” Bandana Mehrotra, director at RML Mehrotra Pathology, told The Economic Times. “It has become very difficult for technicians to collect home samples in such large numbers.”

Mehrotra said the lab had stopped taking samples across collection centres save one branch, because of the high footfall, which he said was “leading to overcrowding and violation of social distancing”.

Similarly, Nivaran Pathology and Diagnostics said it was collecting samples only between 7 am and 2 pm. Others like the Health City and Trauma Centre in Lucknow put conditions to their testing strategy. The lab has stopped testing samples for the general public for a week and is only testing those already under treatment in the hospital, if they have to undergo a surgery.

There are also technical hurdles. Mehrotra said the lab technicians were facing troubles in making entries on the government portal. “It takes us three minutes to upload the data of each entry on the portal, which have to be uploaded within 24 hours,” he told The Economic Times.

Delays in receiving test reports were also reported in other districts of Uttar Pradesh. In Prayagraj and Varanasi, residents said labs were taking five to six days to give them their results.

A countrywide problem

India is in the midst of an unprecedented rise in coronavirus cases. On Saturday, the country reported 2.34 lakh new cases in 24 hours, setting yet another grim milestone of a highest single-day rise in infections.

Laboratories across the country too seem to be buckling under the second wave, as thousands of people line up to get themselves tested.

In Maharashtra’s Pune city, residents told the Hindustan Times that had to wait for almost a week to get their RT-PCR report. Several of labs have stopped testing altogether, while the district administration has been shooting letters to the state government, asking it to increase testing capacity in the city amid the crisis.

In Rajasthan, large queues were seen outside various testing centres of the state, reported India Today. The laboratories, which have capacities for around 400 to 500 tests on a daily basis, are conducting more than 1,500 tests.

A similar situation prevails in Karnataka, where residents complained they had to wait for long as four days to get their results. At a meeting on Friday with senior officials, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa ordered laboratories to submit results within 24 hours, reported The Hindu.

On Saturday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also said his administration had received complaints that some labs are taking two to three days to give Covid reports. He said strict action will be taken against such labs that are not giving reports within 24 hours.

Several states across the country are running out of ventilators as coronavirus patients crowd its overburdened hospitals. Social media is full of people searching for beds, oxygen and medicines, while relatives throng pharmacies looking for antiviral drug Remdesivir that hospitals ran out of long ago.

Increase beds, ramp up testing: Centre to UP, Chhattisgarh

Meanwhile, the Centre on Friday advised Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to increase the number of beds for Covid-19 patients in the states as it continued to report a high number of cases.

At a review meeting, chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Indian Council of Medical Research director Balram Bhargava recommended ramping up testing facilities in the districts with a positivity rate of over 5%.

“The states were advised to increase the number of isolation beds, oxygen beds, ventilators/ICU beds, ambulance fleet as per requirement; plan for adequate oxygen supply; and focus on mortality reduction by early identification of positive cases and adherence to national treatment protocol,” an official statement said.

Health officials also discussed the reported shortage of hospital infrastructure such as ICU and oxygen supported hospitals beds.

Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, along with Maharashtra, are the only three states in the country that have more than one lakh active Cases. Chhattisgarh has reported nearly 6.2% increase in weekly new Covid cases based on seven day moving average, the health ministry said. Uttar Pradesh has reported a growth rate of 19.25% in daily new cases.