The State government is set to procure one lakh SARS-CoV-2 antibody test strips for preliminary screening of quarantined persons and those who are asymptomatic.
As there are no authorised manufacturers in India right now, the State has to procure the strips from China. But, with no regular flight cargo services available, the State government has sought permission from the Civil Aviation Ministry for a chartered cargo flight to be sent from India to pick up the consignment from Beijing.
Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary (Health and Family Welfare and Medical Education), told The Hindu on Thursday that the process of procuring the strips has begun. We have discussed this in the task force. If all goes well, we should be able to take up preliminary screening of even those who are asymptomatic, he said.
As of now, the country is facing a shortage of RNA-based test kits through which the ICMR-approved confirmatory tests can be done.
C.N. Manjunath, Director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, who is part of the States COVID-19 task force, said South Korea, Singapore, UK and Ukraine are successfully using the strips. These strips are certified by the European Union, he said.
We discussed this at the task force meeting on Tuesday. The government has requested the Civil Aviation Ministry to permit sending a chartered flight to pick up the consignment. If all goes well, we should have it in the next 15 days, he said.
V. Ravi, Senior Professor and Head of Neuro-Virology at NIMHANS, who is also part of the task force, said these antibody strips will help in detecting antibodies to COVID-19 in less than an hour with just a drop of blood.
The strip is similar to a pregnancy test strip. It will help in preliminary screening, especially among the large number of quarantined patients and their contacts. This will help in avoiding the rush for confirmatory tests. However, after this screening, the samples will again have to be tested through the standard PCR method for confirmation. This will take six to eight hours, Dr. Ravi said.
Meanwhile, the ICMR has asked States to test individuals aged above 60, who are part of the group of evacuees currently quarantined in government designated camps, as they are at high risk and may have medical concerns.