"Substandard" Covid Test Kit May Have Worsened Madhya Pradesh's 2nd Wave

Many people in Madhya Pradesh, whose families suffered during the second Covid wave, have blamed the faulty testing kits for their plight.

'Substandard' Covid Test Kit May Have Worsened Madhya Pradesh's 2nd Wave

The state government has defended its saying there was no problem with the Covid test kit.


Kundan Punjabi has never had a worse time than the months of May and June this year. As the second Covid wave peaked, the Bhopal-based businessman lost five members of his family to the pandemic, including his brother.

Among other things, Mr Punjabi pointed to a specific cause for the tragedy: "Had it not been the test results, my brother would have been alive with us. If the report came negative, what could we do? We believed he was not infected."

Earlier, in April, four members of home maker Santosh Kansana's family got infected, leaving them all in critical condition. She, too, alleged that a false negative result following a rapid antigen test (RAT) complicated things.

"We got the test done for my in-laws. My elder grand-daughter tested positive, the rest of them negative. But in a few days, the situation worsened. A CT scan confirmed that around 70 per cent of their lungs had been infected...we suffered because of the test," Ms Kansana said.

These are among the many now raising a key question: Did the Madhya Pradesh government supply substandard or faulty covid testing kits?

NDTV accessed a letter written by Dr KK Agarwal, head of Madhya Pradesh's Covid-sampling team, which delves into the matter.

In his June 29 letter, addressed to the Managing Director of the Madhya Pradesh Health Services Corporation, Dr Agarwal said that the testing kit was substandard.

"On being put on a buffer, the sample gets flooded. As a result of which even (Covid) positive patients are shown as negative. Also, the kit is not registered on the ICMR portal because of which rapid test entries cannot be made," it said, seeking better quality kits.

At the peak of the second wave in May and June, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's government had supplied 15 lakh RAT kits across all districts. Named Bio Credit Covid 19 AG, these kits were made by a South Korean company called Rapgin and were bought for Rs 7.18 crore, costing Rs 47.89 per unit.

The purchase was made despite the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) putting the product in the non-approved category. While this deal is a confirmed one, there are indications that the same product was purchased earlier, too.
The opposition Congress is now calling the whole affair "a scam".

"The Prime Minister had asked them not to purchase the South Korean kits, but the Madhya Pradesh government went ahead anyway. I ask if Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was fighting Coronavirus or indulging in some kind of management? The people of the state will punish him for this for sure," said former minister and senior Congress leader Jeetu Patwari.

The state government has, however, brushed aside the allegations.

Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang even disputed the fact that ICMR had not approved the test kit.

"The kits were not substandard. Had the kit not had a validity certificate, it would not have been there on the ICMR portal in the first place," he said.

It is still not clear how many of these allegedly substandard kits were used for tests or what percentage of the tests were conducted using these kits.