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Andaman & Nicobar has started conducting ‘pool tests’ for Covid-19 — first in the country




A doctor wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) holds a saliva swab in a test tube during coronavirus symptom tests. (Representational Image) | Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg
A doctor wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) holds a saliva swab in a test tube during coronavirus symptom tests. (Representational Image) | Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg

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New Delhi: The Andaman and Nicobar administration has been ‘pool testing’ the samples of suspected coronavirus patients to reduce the number of test kits used, in view of the acute shortage of kits across the country.

They have been conducting these Covid-19 tests for the past ten days and according to government sources, the union territory is the first to do so in India.

The process involves testing multiple swab samples in a single test. If the combined sample tests positive for coronavirus, the samples are then tested individually to determine who has the infection. This reduces the number of test kits utilised, compared to the testing of individual samples.

“Five samples per testing kit are used. So, less than 25 kits are being used for testing 100 samples,” a government official told ThePrint.

The government sources also indicated that the method has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and with several states running out of test kits, the rest of the country is reportedly going to follow suit.

Also read: India would’ve had 8.2 lakh cases without lockdown & containment measures: Health Ministry

Cost-effective way of testing

Over 620 tests have been conducted by the administration in Andaman and Nicobar, which has a population of approximately four lakh people.

In a tweet Friday, Chetan Sanghi, chief secretary of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands said that one-fourth of test kits are being used by pooling samples leading to more tests on an average in the union territory.

A study by researchers at the Texas A&M University, Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) and Princeton University in the US had assessed the feasibility of pooled real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing. The RT-PCR test is used to determine whether an individual has contracted Covid-19.

The study revealed that pooling test samples is cost-effective and can determine an estimation of the prevalence of the infection, especially in countries with limited resources.

11 confirmed coronavirus cases in Andaman and Nicobar

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to five endangered indigeneous tribes and were one of the first to stop the entry of non-residents and outsiders on 22 March, to curb the spread of the virus.

The union territory had confirmed 11 cases of coronavirus, nine of whom had participated in the Tablighi Jamaat’s event in Delhi last month.

When compared to other island nations like Maldives and Malta, Andaman and Nicobar has the least cases. Maldives has reported 19 cases while Malta has 350 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Following the Tablighi Jamaat development, intense contact tracing was carried out by the authorities. Additionally, people who had allegedly attended the Jamaat event on two flights to the Andamans were also isolated and most of them were tested.

Ten patients have recovered from the infection and will be shifted from hospitals to institutional quarantine for two weeks. Till Saturday, only one active case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the islands.

Also read: Vaccine against coronavirus could be ready by September


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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