Bengal orders advanced device from Europe for 1 lakh daily COVID tests

Initially, it will used in select state-run hospitals in north Bengal and in the metropolis, an official said

COVID-19 test
Stating that community transmission of COVID-19 has been recorded in a few areas in West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government announced a complete lockdown across the state for two days every week. Photo: PTI (Representational)

The West Bengal government plans to conduct one lakh daily tests for COVID-19 amid an alarming rise in infections in the state. It has placed orders for advanced testing equipment from a Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company, an official said on Saturday (July 11).

The device, which can conduct novel coronavirus tests on the Cobas 6800/8800 system, is being brought to the state via waterways and delivery is expected soon, the official said.

The development comes at a time when the state is reporting record high number of cases every day. For the last three days, more than a thousand fresh cases have been found each day. The total count, as on Sunday morning, stands at 28,453 cases and 906 deaths.

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“With rising number of COVID-19 infections, it’s imperative to augment testing of samples. This particular instrument has the capacity to test a lakh of samples daily,” the official said. “West Bengal will perhaps be the first state in the country to start using them.”

The state is testing around 10,000 samples on a daily basis. The equipment will be put to use in select state-run hospitals in north Bengal and in the metropolis to start with, added the official.

“The cost of of conducting 10,000 tests is ₹2-2.5 crore. Once this system is in place, it will cut down on the expenditure,” he said. Training of technicians on operating the device has started at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine.

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“We have some technicians in the Health Department and a few at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) who have knowledge about the Cobas system. Some are being trained at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine,” the official added.

“The arrival of the equipment is getting delayed because of the lockdown, but we expect it soon,” he added.

The Cobas SARS-CoV-2 is a real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machine intended for qualitative test on the Cobas 6800/8800 system to detect the infection from nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab samples, and it is approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

(With inputs from agencies)

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