Testing is one of the three essential Ts to tackle Covid-19. Rather, it is the key. For, depending on it are the other two Ts — tracing and treatment. Sadly, the authorities have been found wanting with regard to this crucial component. Most towns and cities are overwhelmed and underprepared to cater to the huge surge of swabs they are inundated with in the current second wave. People urgently in need of tests are complaining of long queues and waiting periods for both the sample collection and test results.
The 10-day delay in the RT-PCR test results of Kangra more or less exemplifies the story. In this frustrating and disturbing interim, those found Covid-positive face a huge risk as they lose precious time for treatment; they may also unintentionally pass on the infection, especially if they are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Particularly impacted are the poor who cannot afford private labs, even as government facilities are buckling under pressure. Making the people desperate is also the fact that tied to their latest Covid status are aspects such as inter-state travel and leave from work.
To meet the challenge, the ICMR guidelines state that on recovery, a patient need not go for a test to be certified as Covid-negative. It is mulling doing away with the need for a negative report for travel and asking people to not go for repeat tests. But these steps are fraught with danger at a time when the caseload is seeing no sign of abating. A person may be Covid-negative one moment, but become infected thereafter on exposure. Self-quarantine and taking general treatment once the symptoms are evident, as advised by Niti Aayog experts, are fine, but what if the situation deteriorates suddenly and prompt care is denied for want of the crucial report? Though on Saturday, the ICMR said a Covid-positive report is not a must for hospitalisation, the authorities cannot bypass the scaling up of diagnostic capacities. The much-promised mobile labs, walk-in/drive-through Covid test kiosks and dedicated RAT booths must be fast-tracked to ease the all-round travails.