In the Capital city, even getting a Covid test done is difficult, as private labs have pendency of five days and are inundated by test demands
Arvind Kejriwal while announcing the lockdown for a week in the unprecedented daily rise in Covid-19 cases in Delhi, and the rest of the country, said, that in Delhi as many as 1,00,000 tests are being carried out on a daily basis, and claimed that this could be the best testing ratio per million of the population in the world. And the explosive surge in the number of cases, which has crossed 25,000 per day, could be also because so many tests are being carried out, Kejriwal is of the view.
There’s no denying the fact that there are testing camps in every locality where people can go and get tested — and the government provides free testing. However, the big private players like Dr. Dangs Lab, SRL labs, Dr. Lal Pathlabs, and smaller private players who send a courier to collect samples are overwhelmed by demand.
Patriot’s reporter tried getting a test done by one of the three big players over the weekend. There was no way booking could be done on phone, as many of them were playing a recorded message to the effect, ‘inundated with requests. Can’t take calls. Please fix testing appointments online via our website.’ And, for the good part of Monday, many websites didn’t function.
Like Dr LalPathlabs had this notice fixed on its screen titled “Important information!!” and said “Given the unprecedented situation due to COVID-19? Coronavirus, you may experience a delay in service response time (Report & call center waiting time).” In my case it lasted for more than an hour before I gave up. The notice, as a way of consolation, added, “We are working tirelessly to provide safe and quality service. Appreciate your cooperation!!”
Dr Dang Lab website sought details, and soon a ‘contact enquiry confirmation mail’ was sent stating ‘Thank you for your interest in us. Your Enquiry is being recorded and forwarded ahead. Our concerned representative will get in touch with you shortly.”
The next day, another mail informed, “booking has been made on the incorrect form” but that was not the reason for not considering. The mail states “all slots are completely booked for today” and that “lab is closed on Sunday.” Further, the facility of sample collection “NOT” is not provided at any centers of ours and is only available via– A: drive-through facility at West Punjabi Bagh, Select City Walk, and Asian Games Village. And that too after proper online booking. And “For Monday kindly make the booking on Saturday at 10 am,” stated the mail that arrived on Sunday at 4.49 pm.
SRL Diagnostics website was not able to process location ‘Delhi’ and without that, it was not registering the request. And so it was not possible to book a test, despite the website declaring “backed by state-of-art technology and medical acumen, SRL has been approved by the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), Government of India for collection of samples, testing & diagnosis of COVID_19 suspects.”
Since we were not able to book a test with any of the big labs that make tall claims, we were forced to opt for one of the many smaller labs that send a courier to collect samples. There’s one that collects samples from Noida, is very popular and prompt, by the name — Advanced Genomics Institute & Laboratory Medicine Private Limited. They have couriers, like Monu Kumar, who has collected as many as 100 samples a day, for months together from Noida. The rates have fluctuated a lot, starting with Rs 2500 for RT PCR test soon after the outbreak of the pandemic last year, rates were later slashed to Rs 900, and subsequently to Rs 700 per test.
When the lab was contacted, they did send a courier, who doesn’t want to be named, but refused to collect samples for RT PCR test as there’s “a 5 days pendency” and that they are concentrating to clear the backlog. However, for the satisfaction of customer were ready to carry out a ‘Rapid Diagnostic Test’, or the RDT, which involves the collection of a sample from the respiratory tract of a person, and if the virus is present in sufficient concentrations, it binds to specific antibodies fixed to a paper strip, gives a visually detectable signal within a few minutes. The courier informed that its accuracy is 75 percent. This test usually costs Rs 200 — is now being performed for Rs 1000.
So when Kejriwal says that there’s a danger of the health system collapsing, he’s not dramatizing the situation. From hospitals to Covid-beds, to vaccines, to drugs, to diagnostic tests — all of it is under tremendous pressure. Last heard, as per a senior government official in UP, restrictions are being placed on the use of oxygen for industrial purposes, as more and more of it can be made available to deal with this medical emergency of pandemic proportions.
(Cover: Booking a test with any of the big labs, that make tall claims, seemed impossible amid these trying times / Credit: Jonasday.com)