The Centre has asked Assam to ramp up testing in Guwahati and change its technique after the state clocked 6.5 per cent coronavirus growth rate which is much higher than the national average. The city has recorded nearly 1,400 cases in the last two days.
"The fast growth rate of the spread of the virus has even left the Government of India worried. Union Home minister Amit Shah had a telephonic discussion on this with me. He has advised us to ramp up testing in Guwahati to 10 thousand tests a day," state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told NDTV.
"ICMR officials had a discussion with our health secretary and we have come up with a new testing protocol. It will be based on swab and no further confirmatory test will be required. We have to quickly identify the infected people and segregate them. COVID-19 care centres will be at the heart of the treatment," he added.
Assam will now introduce Standard Q COVID testing technique, which will test for antigen; the reports will be provided within an hour. Currently the state is testing samples using the RT-PCR and TrueNat techniques, in which results arrive from one to seven days.
"This cut short the waiting period for COVID test results from 3-4 days under the existing RT-PCR Test (real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction)," Mr Sarma added.
The tests will be conducted from Friday at the makeshift COVID testing and preliminary care centres in 31 wards of Guwahati.
For this test, professionals collect a nasal swab, which is then immersed in a solution that deactivates the virus. A few drops of this solution are then put on a test strip. This has to be done within an hour of the immersion of the swab in the solution.
Mr Sarma said people will first be antigen-tested and if they are found negative, they will again be tested under the RT-PCR Test "to be sure". Those tested positive will be taken to hospitals immediately.
He said rapid testing is important because people roam around after submitting their samples till the time their tests results are out.
"With rapid testing, they can be taken to hospitals immediately, thus, restricting further contamination," he said.