According to a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 120 million rapid diagnostic kits for Covid-19 would be made available to low- and middle-income countries at a low cost. With health guidelines becoming less relevant by the day, along with the continuous surge in the rate of infection, increasing testing is of utmost importance—more so because of the likelihood of a second wave of Covid-19 onslaught in the coming months. Amidst all the chaos, antigen-based testing has been permitted recently in all government hospitals, district hospitals, government PCR labs and all health institutes as per the proposal of the Health Directorate and the interim guideline of the WHO.
We welcome such a decision as mass testing is the only way we can efficiently identify, isolate and treat the infected population, not only in the cities but also in remote corners of the country where the sophisticated RT-PCR tests are not easily available. The antigen test involves taking a saliva sample and the results are obtained within 15-30 minutes. What took us so long to approve it, while our neighbour India had already done so months ago, still remains a question.
The need of the hour is for the authorities to take immediate necessary steps in order to obtain the WHO-approved rapid testing kits. Choosing the right kits is extremely important in a scenario where there are instances of unscrupulous individuals supplying fake protective gear such as masks to hospitals. The details about the WHO prequalification of the kits along with the results of the validation tests, which are now in progress at the IEDCR, are crucial during selection. The validation is expected to be complete in a little more than a week's time. The relevant health officials must remain alert and choose wisely to ensure the quality of the antigen kits. Given our limited access to the expensive and time-consuming RT-PCR test, such a move will prove beneficial as it will help patients in getting timely treatment and possibly save their lives.