New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has expressed shock over the low number of RT-PCR tests being conducted for Covid-19 infection in the state despite a higher installed capacity. The court found that less than 6,000 such tests had been conducted between July 15 and 23, whereas the combined capacity of the private sector and public sector laboratories in Delhi is 54 in which approximately 11,000 RT-PCR tests can be conducted on a daily basis.
The bench of Justices Hima Kohli and S. Prasad pointedly asked the AAP government to explain why its administration was more focused on conducting the Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT), despite knowing that the RT-PCR is the golden test.
The petitioner, advocate Rakesh Malhotra, stated that while the ICMR recommendation is clear on conducting RAT in containment zones/hotspots and health care settings, nowhere does it state that the testing through RT-PCR should be dispensed with.
The court also noted that the circular dated July 1, jointly issued by the ICMR and the Ministry of Health is not available on the website of the Delhi Government. ICMR, in that advisory, had clarified that not only doctors from the government sector but doctors from the private sector are also empowered to prescribe the RT-PCR test.
The Court after going through all documents and arguments held that, “The least we expect Delhi Government to do is to regularly update its website and upload all the advisories, circulars, etc. issued by the ICMR, and other authorities, relating to COVID-19 news, to keep the public well informed.” Court also added that, “Press alone cannot be the medium for disseminating information. This is not to state that the press has not played a positive role in publicizing information relating to COVID-19.”
Sujeet Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), who was present at the hearing, recommended the increase of testing through the RT-PCR mode for the public rather than the RAT. He advised: “However, for those who are to be admitted or propose to undergo surgical/non-surgical procedures in hospitals, the order of testing should be RAT followed by RT-PCR with the idea that the RAT results are faster and therefore, the follow-up treatment can be expedited.”
The ICMR submitted before the court that it is going to issue a fresh advisory very soon and the Delhi Government has informed the court that NCDC and Delhi government are going to conduct a meeting soon to plan further strategies for ramping up the testing to contain COVID-19 infection.
The court asked ICMR, NCDC and the Delhi Government to file fresh status reports before the next date of hearing and listed the matter for further hearing on August 4.
Read the order here;
– India Legal Bureau