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Centre tells Delhi to use rapid antigen detection kit for COVID-19

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The Centre’s communication came in the wake of the recent spurt in coronavirus cases in the national capital

The Centre has communicated to the Delhi government that it can deploy rapid antigen COVID-19 detection kits in containment zones and hospitals in combination with the traditional RT-PCR test for faster diagnosis and effective prevention.

The Centre’s communication came in the wake of the recent spurt in coronavirus cases in the national capital.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has capped the procurement cost for a rapid antigen test kit at Rs 450 following negotiation with the firm that produces it.

It negotiated the price of the Standard Q COVID-19 Ag detection kit (rapid antigen test kits) with the South Korean company SD Biosensor, which developed it and which has its manufacturing unit in Manesar, Gurgaon.

On June 14, ICMR had written a letter to the Health Ministry, highlighting the need to augment COVID-19 testing in containment zones in Delhi.

The ICMR letter followed two high-level meetings Union Home Minister Amit Shah had with the Delhi government recently.

“The Delhi government has already been told that they can deploy rapid antigen detection tests for COVID-19 in the containment zones as well as hospitals in combination with the RT-PCR test to check the spread of infection,” a health ministry source said. 

The rapid antigen test kits allow faster diagnosis without laboratory examination of samples.

“It is critical to immediately augment COVID-19 testing capacity in containment zones of Delhi to prevent the spread of infection,” ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava told Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan in the June 14 letter.

It stated that Delhi has 40 RT-PCR testing labs in both the public and private sectors.

“The overall testing capacity of Delhi as on today is close to 18,000 samples per day. Testing remains a cornerstone in our fight against COVID-19 and therefore ramping up testing is essentially critical to track, trace and treat all cases of COVID-19,” Bhargava said in his letter.

According to the ICMR letter, symptomatic individuals who test negative should be definitely tested sequentially by RT-PCR to rule out COVID-19 infection, whereas a positive test should be considered as a truly positive and does not need the confirmation by RT-PCR test.

Standard Q COVID-19 Ag kit is available with the local vendor of SD Biosensor, the letter said, while mentioning the contact details.

According to an ICMR advisory,  the Standard Q COVID-19 Ag detection can be interpreted as positive or negative after 15 minutes of putting the collected nasal swab into the well of the test-strip by the appearance of test and control lines, which can be read with a naked eye, requiring no specialised equipment, it said.

The maximum duration for interpreting a positive or negative test is 30 minutes. After that the test strip should be discarded, it said.

The test kit should be stored at temperatures between 2 degree to 30-degree centigrade.

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