Kerala to ramp up random tests in COVID-19 red zones

Govt sets up UV sterilised labs in Kannur and Kottayam; aims to conduct 60 tests per day by taking samples from health workers, police, home delivery persons, and migrant labourers

The Kerala government plans to ramp up random antibody tests for COVID-19 in the red zones of Kasargod, Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, in a bid to check the community transmission of the virus.

Making the announcement before the press on Thursday (April 23), Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said while there is no community spread in the state yet, the threat still looms.

“To ensure that there is no community spread in the state, random antibody tests would be conducted among health workers, police personnel, home delivery persons, volunteers and migrant labourers,” he said.

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Vijayan said COVID-19 labs set up at the Pariyaram Government Medical College at Kannur and Kottayam Medical College have been permitted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct the tests. The one in Kottayam will start working from Friday (April 24).

Related news: Kerala plans reverse isolation to protect vulnerable sections

The UV sterilized lab, spread over 2,200 sq ft is equipped with four real-time PCR machines. In the first phase, the lab will be able to conduct 15 tests per day, which will be gradually increased to 60.

“With the opening of these two new labs, tests to detect COVID-19 will be conducted in 14 government labs in Kerala. Apart from this, there are two private labs also in Kerala which are doing these tests. Since the number of coronavirus cases is again increasing in the state, the government has decided to procure 10 real-time PCR machines to ramp up testing,” the chief minister was quoted by ANI as saying.

The ICMR which recently conducted random test on patients with respiratory illness like severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) has said that random tests through the RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) method is not cost effective and is time consuming.

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