West Bengal government to start rapid antibody tests in hotspots, clusters

Published : April 19, 2020 20:53 IST

In Kolkata, paramedical staff at the government-run M.R. Bangur Super Specialist Hospital. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

The West Bengal government announced on April 19 that it would conduct Rapid Antibody Tests in line with the advisory of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), dated April 17. In its memo dated April 18, the State government said that to begin with the rapid testing would be conducted in any hotspots/clusters/containment zones, and also it would be used as a “surveillance tool for epidemiological purposes in such areas where cases have not emerged so far.”

The State government made it clear that the results of the test would not be revealed instantly to those who were tested, so as to “prevent any panic mongering”.

In a separate announcement, the State government made it known that in order to increase the capacity of the laboratories to screen more numbers of samples using molecular testing for COVID-19 for the purpose of surveillance and as per the ICMR advisory published on April 13 on the subject, it had decided to “use pooled samples for screening of suspected COVID-19 cases in West Bengal”.

The government in its memo also lays down the recommendations for sample pooling for real-time RT-PCR screening for COVID-19:

“Inclusion criteria – During community survey and surveillance among asymptomatic individuals in areas where the prevalence rate of infection is low

“Exclusion criteria – Exclude pooling samples of individuals with known contact with confirmed cases, and where the rate of infection is expected to be high.”

The government’s decisions come at a time when it has found itself at the receiving end of strong criticism by opposition parties over the low number of tests carried out in the State. On April 17, the Calcutta High Court advised the State government to increase COVID-19 tests on a “war footing.”