A rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and exceeding requests for either RT-PCR or antigen tests has abruptly forced a majority of private laboratories to stop collecting swab samples even from testing centres for at least two days.
As per a government bulletin on Tuesday evening, in the last 24 hours, Delhi conducted 86,526 tests. Despite having sufficient infrastructure and equipped with machines and testing kits, many labs are closing themselves for three to four days citing overburden and shortage in manpower.
As per ICMR guidelines, the data of results have to be uploaded within 24 hours. Centres overburdened with pressure are even failing to provide results within 48 hours of collecting the swab samples.
To keep pace with the COVID-19 surge and to check the delay in providing results, the Delhi government on April 16 issued an order stating, "Keeping in view the above and to ensure that districts (and Government hospitals) have an adequate number of slots available in labs to get their samples processed within a stipulated time frame (preferably 24 hours and latest within 48 hours) through the Gold Standard Test in continuation of order 1 tF.No.253/DGHS/PLIW-IV/COVID-19/ NCDC/2020/ 12205-12274 dated 15/01/202 the linkage of public and private sector lab with each District of NCT of Delhi is amended with immediate effect."
However, failing to provide the results within a time limit of 48 hours, labs are being forced toward closure for at least two days.
Dr Gauri Agarwal, Founder-Director of Genestrings Diagnostic Center, Malviya Nagar told ANI, "My team and I have not slept for 72 hours. We are doing a collection of 8,000 to 10,000 samples per day and the only issue we are struck with is manpower. Most of the labs have proper infrastructure, be it machines or testing kits. We are running short of manpower. A lot of our technicians are contracting the virus. However, there is a continuous hiring process and also we have to keep training them."
"The home calls have increased by about four to five times. We are trying our best but the home collection is not possible for all. I would request people to come to the centre for swab testing that helps in getting results faster," she said.
Shyam Singh Chandel, Patient Relation officer of a private lab said, "The management system of hospitals and laboratories is deteriorating. Cases are increasing and hence the demand for tests is also propelling faster. We used to do 500 tests earlier, now we are not able to meet the demand even at 5000 tests, testing results are being delayed too. The burden has gone to such an extent where we were forced to stop home collection."
Delhi is also witnessing a serious shortage in its oxygen capacity.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, "Serious oxygen crisis persists in Delhi. I again urge the centre to urgently provide oxygen to Delhi. Some hospitals are left with just a few hours of oxygen."
Delhi recorded 277 deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest since the pandemic began over a year ago, and 28,395 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 85,575 active cases in the national capital.