By: Dr. Dipjyoti Deka & Dr. Biraj Shome
Ramping up COVID testing to “CHASE THE VIRUS”
Assam has been successfully managing the COVID-19 pandemic by adopting multi-pronged COVID response strategies, namely 4 Ts, i.e., Testing, Tracing, Treatment and Transparency in action. The entire initiative is supported strongly by the Government of Assam and being led from front by Hon’ble Health Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma duly supported by strong team of bureaucrats, technocrats and members of Development partners. To ensure that all these strategies work well, different activities were carried out to ensure sufficient logistics, gap filling of different health facilities, involvement on Private Hospitals in managing non-covid cases, training of staff engaged in COVID, active support from community and frontline workers, providing psychological support to patients, massive IEC campaign, bringing people from other states back to home, different safety net initiatives, implementation of “Ruthless Quarantine with Humane Heart for all influx”, ramping up testing and support from Development Partners.
Before putting someone at quarantine centre for 14 days, the person needs to undergo COVID test. The test report only determines whether to admit him at COVID hospital (if the test result is positive) or to release him for strict home quarantine (if the test result is negative) for the residual number of days, out of the total quarantine period of 14 days.
The total COVID cases in Assam till May 17th was only 100, since the reporting of the 1st case on March 31, but the number started to increase with the opening of the lockdown since May 18.
With the population started coming from other states, mainly from few COVID hotspot states, namely Maharashtra, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kerala, Bangalore, Uttar Pradesh, it was certain that many of the returnees will bring COVID to Assam and will infect others too. So, the state took a decision to “Chase the Virus” by ramping up testing, but, in doing so, the major challenge was less number of ICMR approved testing laboratories.
So, a major drive was carried out from the month of May to increase the number of testing labs in the state. With the initiative taken, it is so satisfying that in May itself, the state did more than 1 lac tests while June, added another 2 lac tests. As on June 28th, the state has completed 3,85,299 tests, which was just 10,000 tests on April 30th. On an average, Assam now is able to do testing of around 11000 – 12000 per day, which will further increase in days to come. At present, there are 12 ICMR approved government (state as well as central government-functioning in Assam) laboratories functioning, which were just 6 laboratories till April. Moreover, support from renowned private labs is also being taken and till June 28, all total 94020 tests are done through private labs.
With the number of influx entering the state and as a state policy is to test each one of them before putting him/her at quarantine centre for 14 days, this decision has helped in averting major community disaster. Out of the total 9434 positive cases till date, more than 90% cases came from quarantine centres. If all of them would have moved to his/her family (without proper test) then what would have been the scenario. This can better be imagined than expressed. Moreover, a huge sense of mental relief is given for all those, who tests negative.
The achievement of testing in Assam so far as on June 28, totalled 385299 and the status of different labs and hospitals are:
- Jorhat Medical College & Hospital (JMCH): 41573
- Silchar Medical College & Hospital (SMCH): 32278
- Guwahati Medical College & Hospital Hilltop Lab (GMCH): 53217
- Assam Medical College & Hospital (AMCH): 21449
- Tezpur Medical College & Hospital (TMCH): 36214
- FAA Medical College & Hospital (FAAMCH): 47038
- Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC-ICMR): 32034
- Institute of Advanced Studies in Science and Technology (IASST): 11154
- Diphu Medical College & Hospital (DMCH): 5528
- Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO): 3947
- North East Institute of Science & Technology (NEIST): 2543
- Guwahati Medical College Hospital Lab: 4304
(Dr. Dipjyoti Deka, is the SPM of NHM, Assam and Dr. Biraj Shome, is the Consultant, WHO)