08:46 GMT11 May 2021
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    India has reported 168,912 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, overtaking Brazil to become the second-most affected country globally. The overall count reached 13.5 million, surpassing the South American nation's 13.4 million cases.

    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. 

    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.
    A health worker administers the COVISHIELD vaccine for COVID-19 at a Government Fever Hospital in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, April 1, 2021
    © AP Photo / Mahesh Kumar A
    A health worker administers the COVISHIELD vaccine for COVID-19 at a Government Fever Hospital in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, April 1, 2021

    "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.

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