COVID19 testing: People turned away from Delhi dispensary

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Rajeev Choudhury
Amid the rising number of daily infections in the country, people allege that the public healthcare system is reducing the number of tests being conducted.

A recent visit to a Delhi government dispensary by DTMT revealed that many people who came there for getting tested are being turned away by the officials.
“We have been instructed not to conduct any screening tests at the moment,” a healthcare worker in the dispensary said while explaining to a person who had come to get tested.
When contacted, the officials declined to comment but referred to the recent guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The guidelines issued on January 10, 2022, say that people who have symptoms like cough, fever, sore throat, loss of taste and or smell, breathlessness and or other respiratory symptoms, or those who fall in the ‘at risk’ category and have come in contact with confirmed COVID19 positive individuals, or those who need to undertake international travels or those coming from abroad, need to get tested in the community settings.
“My brother had tested positive for COVID19 recently, I have been asked by my office to get myself tested, though I do not have any symptoms,” said Neha (name changed).
“I do not know what to do now, getting tested from a private lab is going to cost me Rs. 750, and it is a lot of money,” she added.
Riyaz Ahmed, who also had come to get tested, agrees.  “I have been trying to get myself tested for the past two days now; yesterday I was asked to get a prescription from a doctor to be able to get tested, but when I enquired inside the dispensary I was told that no such prescriptions are needed,” he said.
“Getting tested in a private laboratory at the moment is beyond my means,” he added.
Agreeing that the number of cases of COVID19 has been increasing in the recent days, Dr S K Basu a general practitioner in the same area said that he had seen at least 150 patients during the week who showed symptoms of being COVID19 positive.
“However the CT value has been long, indicating that the infections this time is less severe in nature,” he elaborated.
"The cyclic threshold or CT value refers to the number of cycles after which the virus can be detected. A higher CT value means that more cycles are required to detect the virus, meaning the virus load is low. However, a lower CT value indicates a higher virus load, meaning the subject has more concentration of virus and is capable of spreading infection," Dr Basu explained.
“More than 60% of the patients who are coming with symptoms of cough and cold look like COVID19 positive, however, most of them are avoiding getting tested,” Dr Basu added.
The main reasons behind not getting tested are first, the mental tension, what will happen if tested positive and secondly if one gets tested positive that person has to go for home isolation.
Though people are ready to mask up, stay indoors, they are not ready to learn that they are COVID19 positive, Dr Basu informed.
However, according to him, RTPCR is not a justified means for just determining if a person is COVID19 positive or not, conducting RTPCR tests are expensive, and it is not a sustainable proposition.
“Another thing that we are seeing currently that rapid antigen testing facilities are not there in the public (governmental) setup, and under these circumstances, it will be very difficult for the poor to be able to get tested until they show symptoms of infection,” he added.



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