Govt Plan Changes, RT-PCR Tests to Be 40% of All Tests by June End
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had advised to raise the RT-PCR tests to 70 percent of the total tests.
In a press briefing on Thursday, 20 May, the government announced that RT-PCR tests, widely believed to be the most accurate method of detecting COVID-19 in patients since the beginning of the pandemic, will be 40 percent of total tests undertaken by the end of June.
This is in contrast to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advisory to raise the RT-PCR tests to 70 percent of the total tests.
Instead, the government plans to depend upon the antigen test, a less accurate test, increasing it to 60 percent as it expands its testing capacity to 45 lakh per day by the end of next month.
Two months ago, PM Modi had advised all states and said that RT-PCR should be 70 percent of all tests, adding that there was ‘no pressure’ if numbers were high.
This week, the official RT-PCR testing capacity was reported to be 12-13 lakh in a day, a decrease from last week, when it was 16 lakh.
The Centre’s aim was to increase the testing rate to 18 lakh a day by the end of June, a goal which is farther now than it was last week.
As per the presentation, the average capacity of tests will be 45 lakh a day, out of which 18 lakh, or 40 percent, will be RT-PCR tests.
The Union government also re-classified RT-PCR as "the standard test" in its most recent presentation as opposed to the “gold standard test".
The presentation also demonstrated that the daily testing, cumulative of both tests during the second wave in April-May was about 50-50 per day. Every day, out of the 16-20 lakh tests conducted, there were 11 lakh RT-PCR tests and 10 lakh RAT tests.
The inaccuracy of the data arises when the usage of the RAT test is reflected in the vastly different positivity rate.
While RT-PCR reported a 17.2 percent positivity rate, antigen tests found 8.3 of samples to be positive and TrueNat/CBNat 10.1 percent. Upon calculating, it is found that if all tests were RT-PCR, there would be approximately 75k-80k more cases recorded daily.
Offering an explanation for its change of plans, the government said that "rationalising" RT-PCR tests and expanding RAT tests is imperative for early detection, isolation, and home care.
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