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Punjab to go for mass antigen tests on Delhi lines

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to 10 worst hit states to adopt National Capital Region (NCR) model in their fight against Covid-19, Punjab has decided to make antigen testing its key weapon in the coming days and make the contact tracing fool-proof.

The NCR, especially Delhi, used antigen testing as the key tool in bringing per day caseload and fatalities down, besides strengthening containment of the hotspots, an area where Punjab has fared poorly.

In Delhi, as per information procured from daily health bulletins of the Delhi government, it conducted 4,98,214 rapid antigen tests and 2,64,717 RT-PCR tests between June 30 and August 8, after a period when the capital witnessed maximum number of daily cases across the country. This plateaued the fresh infection graph in the national capital.

Punjab, on the other hand during the same period conducted 3,71,454 tests, including around 14,000 antigen.

Now, Punjab will go for mass rapid antigen test that gives result for the infection in half an hour, thus helping in early treatment and contact tracing. Till now, Punjab’s focus has been on RT-PCR tests which take around 24 hours to get the result.

“Antigen test is the key to controlling the virus and Delhi has emerged as a model in using this successfully to control the spread of the virus. Now, we have ordered 2 lakh antigen testing kits and our focus will be on achieving 30,000 tests per day by September first week,” said Punjab’s nodal officer for Covid-19 Dr Rajesh Bhaskar.

However, the only concern with antigen testing is that it can give a false negative report and a person has to go for the RT-PCR test if he/she develops symptom.

Punjab lags in contact tracing

In the NCR model, more focus was given on tracing all the contacts of a positive person within 72 hours.

As per a senior Punjab health department functionary, contact tracing has been poor in Punjab — six per positive person — as compared to ICMR recommendation of tracing at least 10 direct and indirect contacts of an infected person.

“People lie or hide information during the contact tracing and the problem is more in villages. There have been instances of attack on teams going to take samples of the direct contacts. In past one week, we have focused more on containment strategy,” said the nodal officer.

As per a senior doctor involved in Covid-19 duties in Patiala district, the stigma attached with Covid has been the biggest hurdle in contact tracing.

Close watch on hotspots

Punjab has also faltered on containment of Covid hotspots. Only last week, there were fresh instructions to fully lock the containment and micro-containment zones.

The nodal officer said the state was already following the NCR model and Punjab was the first state to demarcate containment and micro-containment zones on Delhi lines. – Hindustan Times

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