A record surge in COVID-19 cases has left hospitals and labs in many Indian cities swamped with queries and phone calls about RT-PCR tests over the last four days.
RT-PCR tests – or reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction tests – detect COVID-19 by targeting specific genetic sequences of SARS-COV2.
They are free in Indian government hospitals and cost $11 (INR 800) in private labs. In India, it generally takes 24 hours to get the results.
But for the past two days people across the country have been complaining about delayed results, while locals in Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur say hospitals have stopped collecting test samples.
It was a wakeup experience after I eneded up spending a lot of of weekend time trying to chase labs to get a friend's #COVIDTest done..but despite several calls -- no tests happened in #Jabalpur during the weekend lockdown. @ChouhanShivraj @INCMP @ICMRDELHI pic.twitter.com/2Vkgabphf8— Radhika Parashar (@_RadhikaReports) April 12, 2021
Am told labs in Mumbai overwhelmed and have stopped accepting samples. Correct? Called a few to test me and rhey said as much— Dushyant (@atti_cus) April 11, 2021
I did test in Municipality hospital on 7th.— Hindu Paramanand #FreeTNTemples ࿗ 🇮🇳 (@paramanand_3) April 10, 2021
Still waiting for result !
On 7th when I was there,
there were people who had done test on 2nd and 3rd still waiting for their results !!
Likely to impact home collection of routine tests too since technicians argue several who are positive are getting other blood tests done at home without informing labs about #Covid status. Meanwhile in Apollo Jasola there was 1hr wait period this afternoon for Covid tests. 2/2— Smita Sharma (@Smita_Sharma) April 11, 2021
Friend’s mom tested #COVID positive— Harita Dave (@harryta_27) April 10, 2021
Pvt labs denied at-home sample collection, put in 24-hour waiting list for #RTPCR test
Results will take 48 hours more!
But lone car drivers not wearing a mask are responsible for 1300+ cases in #Ahmedabad, not #electionrallies or #match 🙃
Jagdamba Prasad, 56, got himself tested at Atlanta Hospital in the Indian state Uttar Pradesh on 10 April, but he's still waiting for his results.
Speaking with Sputnik, he said, "Hospitals have asked me to wait till 4 pm (12 April). For the last two days, we have isolated ourselves at home since we don't know about the result and don't want to spread the infection."
Kapil Pandey, a 29-year-old resident of Jabalpur, told Sputnik, "Our city has gone into a 12-day lockdown (since 11 April) amid the rising cases, and this past weekend, no labs were testing for COVID despite several calls. Some labs said they were out of rapid tests, and the others casually blamed the weekend lockdown for halting testing."
"I got tested for COVID in Victoria government hospital, who failed to deliver results even four days after taking my swab, on 7 April. No phone calls are being answered there. Pharmacies obviously need a prescription to give away medications, but what should we do if the results are delayed due to 'lockdowns' apparently," he added.
He also said he's isolating because he's suffering from breathlessness, a fever, and has lost his sense of taste.
Current Infrastructure Not Enough: Private Labs
Private labs in India say that due to a sudden increase in demands they've been left with no choice but to increase the waiting period for test results.
"The demand is slightly on a higher side. We have observed that this strain is more infectious and less virulent. The government should allow us to expand timings for sharing the report. At present, the test report has to be given in 24 hours, creating a burden on the testing facility. If we are allowed to increase the turnaround time to 48 or 72 hours, we will have a buffer period to cater to everyone. In this way, labs can continue with testing, and there is less likelihood of the patient getting away," Dr Arvind Lal, chairman of Dr Lal PathLabs, told Sputnik.
"The matter has been raised with the federal and state governments but there has been no redressal to our grievances to scale up the infrastructure. After the first wave of the pandemic, the government should have formed the committee and prepared a roadmap to boost infrastructure for testing," a member of the Indian Medical Association said on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, most of the private labs are hiring more people to meet the growing demand across the country.
"We are finding it very difficult to match the current surge and increase in demand. We had already scaled up our capacity during the first wave, and then the pandemic completely subsided for many months. We are trying to find more people to strengthen the team," Dr Deepak Sadhwani, head of Prognosis Laboratories, told reporters.