Punjab: Testing goes up, but still not at full capacity; 4 new labs to come up soon

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Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | Updated: June 13, 2020 11:17:45 am

Punjab news, Punjab coronavirus testing, Punjab covid tests, Punjab coronavirus cases, Coronavirus thermal testing being conducted.

Punjab has increased its testing for the novel coronavirus, with the maximum number of tests conducted in a day reaching 8,504 Thursday, against the total testing capacity of 9,810 per day. Moreover, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS) has plans to start four new labs in the state which can enhance testing capacity by 2,500 tests a day.

One such lab will be set up at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU), Ludhiana, two at Mohali and another at Jalandhar.

Punjab started with a testing capacity of 80 tests a day on March 15, which increased to 1,050 tests a day by April 30. However by May 30, this testing capacity was increased to 9,810 as three automated Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) separator machines were installed in the last week of May in government medical colleges located in Faridkot, Patiala and Amritsar. Each machine can do RNA extraction of upto 3,000 samples a day, which can thus be tested for Covid. Hence all machines in total have  capacity of 9,000 tests a day. Each machine cost Rs 1.5 crore each. Another 810 tests can be done at private labs, private hospitals and PGI Chandigarh.

“Four new labs will have five automated smaller machines can do around 500 tests each. We have told concerned authorities to complete the construction or renovation of existing buildings by June 30, so that these new labs can be started,” said Dr Raj Bahadur, vice-chancellor, BFUHS, while talking to The Indian Express. Hence, testing capacity will be enhanced to 12,300 tests per day.

Testing still not  upto capacity

However, Punjab has never tested to capacity. On Thursday, it conducted the maximum number of tests conducted in a day at 8,504 while 8,140 tests the day before that. On June 9, only 6,897 tests were done. Till June 11, a total of 1,54,498 tests had been conducted, of which 2,887 reports came back positive, which means 1.86 per cent of the total tested cases, out of which 569 cases were still active till June 11.

According to Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), 88 per cent tests have been done in state government labs, 2 per cent in Government of India labs and the remaining 10 per cent has been done in private labs.

Though BFUHS has installed three automated RNA extractors at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore, but 5 RNA extractors costing Rs 30 lakh each are already lying in BFUHS which can test around 500 tests per day per machine. Hence, five machines can do 2,500 tests a day. “The company which supplied them a year ago did not supply testing kits till date and hence they were not being used. We had not made any payment to them till date and had even asked them to take the machines back, but now the company is supplying us testing kits, hence we plan to use these machines in new labs. The RNA extractor, which is an important step before the RT-PCR step, can be used for many other non-Covid tests as well,” said Dr Raj Bahadur. “Testing needs to be increased in the coming days as we are apprehending more cases looking at the movement of persons inside the state on a daily basis. Hence we need to be well prepared with our testing facilities,” he added.

Meanwhile in Ludhiana, a lab is being set up in the biotechnology department of GADVASU and staff of this department will be doing testing.

According to Punjab’s portal ‘covidhelp’, 97,838 people had registered to come to Punjab, of which 53,118 have already come, of which 52,000 are from within the country. Of these, 77 per cent came via road, 7 per cent via trains and 17 per cent via flights. Hence, looking at the number of persons coming to the state, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had on Thursday announcing lockdown on weekends and home quarantine for persons entering from outside Punjab.

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