Coronavirus: With just 4 Testing Centres, is Assam Prepared for an Outbreak?

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Coronavirus: With just 4 Testing Centres, is Assam Prepared for an Outbreak?

G Plus News | March 24, 2020 10:00 hrs

GUWAHATI: Though the Assam government has claimed that till now there is not even a single positive case of Covid-19 detected in the state, the precautionary measures which were announced by the state health and finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on March 23 have compelled the citizens to brainstorm on how prepared the state is for an outbreak.

There are also other questions like why are there only four testing centres in Assam? Is the low number of testing centres th
e reason for zero confirmed cases in northeast? Why are the private hospitals and laboratories not equipped for Covid-19 tests? How many tests have been done so far and what are the exact results? G Plus tries to find answers to all these questions.

Till March 23, a total of 169 Covid-19 tests have been conducted across Assam in four testing centres – 64 in Guwahati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH), 10 tests in Jorhat Medical College, 10 in Silchar Medical College and 85 in Dibrugarh Medical College. 148 samples were found negative whereas results for 21 samples are still awaited according to Sarma. But why are there only four testing centres, why not more?

Director of health services, Dr. Ratindra Bhuyan, talking to G Plus, said that there has to be certain number of requirements in the hospitals to get the permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to be able to conduct the Covid-19 tests. At present there are only four testing centres and gradually other hospitals will also start testing.

On similar lines, Himanta Biswa Sarma during the press conference on March 23, said that very soon Barpeta Medical College and Tezpur Medical College will also start testing samples for Covid-19.

Earlier in another press conference, he had expressed that states like Uttar Pradesh have only four testing centres, and comparatively Assam is in a better situation.

Talking about northeast, according to media reports, Meghalaya has one testing centre, Manipur has two testing centres, Tripura has one testing centre and Assam has four testing centres. Recently, a sample from Arunachal Pradesh was tested in GMCH and was found negative.

But why are the private hospitals or laboratories not involved in testing in Assam? Not even a single private organisation is testing for Covid-19 here.
Regarding the private sector in Assam, things are confusing as the government officials are saying that private organisations are not applying for permission from ICMR and the private hospital owners are claiming that they have not received any orders from the government to apply for any such permission.

Dr. Ratindra Bhuyan talking to G Plus said, “As soon as ICMR permits a private hospital to conduct Covid-19 tests, we get the information. According to our information, no private hospital or private laboratory has applied for testing permission from Assam.”

On the contrary, the public information officer (PRO) of Apollo Hospitals talking to G Plus said that private hospitals are not allowed to admit or treat Covid-19 suspected patients. Regarding testing she said, “There is no information regarding Corona tests in private labs of Assam.”

Similarly, another owner of a prominent private hospital in Guwahati talking to G Plus on condition of anonymity, said that things will be clear after two days as there will be an important meeting between the health officials and the private hospital owners. He said that as of now the private hospitals according to him are not allowed to conduct tests and if they are, he said, “I don’t know.”

Even the health minister during his press conference on March 23, stressed about the upcoming meeting with the private sector where it will be decided how the private institutes will be used for tackling the dreaded disease. Sarma said that it might be possible that all other patients, other than Covid-19 positive might get transferred to private hospitals if required. “It will be soon decided as to how to use the private hospitals,” said Sarma.

Further, Sonapur Civil Hospital and MMCH in Pan Bazar will be converted into Corona treatment hospitals where only corona positive patients will be treated.

The government also claimed that it is increasing the infrastructural requirements gradually depending on the supply. There are around 160 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in Assam which will be further increased in the coming days, said Sarma talking to the media.

But is it that because there are fewer testing centres and less tests, Assam has not reported a single positive case? An army doctor talking to G Plus on condition of anonymity, said that till there is no positive case in the state, Assam is below stage one. But he said, “There might be some positive cases roaming around and just to stop the spread of the virus, the government has taken measured like lockdown inspite of incurring huge losses.”

It is not possible to test everyone in the state, but anyone coming from outside is getting quarantined, which are measures, the doctor said. Few testing centres is a concern, but proper hygiene and maintaining precautions is the solution. The world is introduced to the virus for the first time, and to find out concrete solution to combat the virus will take some time and people should not panic, rather support the government in such situations, said the doctor.

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