Union Home Minister Amit Shah has directed the Assam government to adopt a new model for conducting 10,000 COVID-19 tests daily with quick results in Guwahati to prevent it from going Mumbai and Delhi ways, state Health and Family Welfare Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Wednesday.
Shah had held a meeting on the prevailing situation in Guwahati with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Secretary to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday, Sarma said addressing a press conference here.
Guwahati has witnessed a huge surge in coronavirus cases during the last week, prompting the government to announce a 14-day complete lockdown in Kamrup (Metro) district, of which Guwahati city is a part, from June 28 midnight.
"The Union home minister called me yesterday and directed us to change our testing pattern and adopt a new model for conducting 10,000 testing daily to ensure that the situation in Guwahati does not go the way of Mumbai and Delhi," Sarma said.
"Guwahati has reported 1,362 positive cases since June 24, and "if we do not test more people in the next few days, then we may fall behind in our fight against COVID-19," the minister said.
"Subsequent to the meeting in New Delhi, the ICMR Director General held a video conference with Principal Secretary of the state health department and suggested a new model of testing in Guwahati which can give the results within one to one-and-a-half hour," he said.
The new model, COVID-19 AG Test, will be a nasal swab test and not random or from blood samples, and if the results are positive, it will be considered to be confirmed.
But, if it is negative, a RT-PCR test will be conducted to be doubly sure of the result, he said.
The training programme for the medical staff who will conduct the tests will be held on Thursday. It will be launched either on Friday or Saturday in the 31 COVID-19 screening centres in the city, the minister said.
Around two lakh testing kits have already arrived here and these "will take testing to the next level as the results will be available immediately within an hour, and in the case of high viral load, even within 15 minutes", he said.
Meanwhile, the National Health Mission, Assam will launch a website on Thursday where the results of swab tests will be available and those tested can access the results with the help of Specimen Referral Form (SRF) numbers given to them during testing, he said.
Sarma said the primary reason for the community transmission of COVID-19 in Guwahati can be attributed to people moving around after giving their samples and not staying in home quarantine.
"If people who may be positive roam around after giving their samples, they become super-spreaders and this amounts to a criminal offence," he said.
The minister informed that Governor Jagadish Mukhi has also given his swab sample for testing and is currently in quarantine.
The Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) Head of Microbiology and another doctor of the department have also tested positive for the disease.
Assam has so far tested 4,12,214 samples and is next to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the country as far as the number of testing is concerned.
The minister inaugurated 13 testing laboratories in the state at the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital here.
The state will get around seven more laboratories by July 15, he said.
A plasma bank will be set up at Guwahati Medical College Hospital by next week and a plasma separator has already been installed in the hospital.
The hospital will collect plasma strains from cured and discharged patients from next week, he said.
Guwahati city has currently 1,538 hospital beds and out of these, 987 beds have been occupied.
The city will require an estimated 3,000 beds by next week and "we have plans to create 1,500 additional beds in different hospitals and facilities at the earliest", he said.
The minister also announced that henceforth home-cooked food in disposable containers can be given to patients with a family member depositing it at a collection centre.
Assam has so far reported 8,547 positive cases and out of these, 2,885 are active cases.
A total of 5,647 patients have been discharged from various hospitals, 12 have died and three have migrated out of the state, officials added.