Tinsukia: At a time when COVID-19 cases are hitting all time high and stress is being laid on ‘3 Ts’ – track, test, treat – to battle the unprecedented pandemic wave in India, reports of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits being “out of stock” have slowed the pace of COVID-19 testing in Assam’s Tinsukia district, leaving the authorities with an uphill task to scale up testing.

The development came on a day India saw its worst-ever daily spike of 3.6 lakh COVID-19 cases and 3,293 deaths. The single-day spike in COVID-19 cases in Assam also crossed the 3,000 mark for the first time this year on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Atanu Bhattacharya tweeted: “No testing kits available at Tinsukia civil hospital since yesterday to check COVID, me along with my team were in the queue from 8 am today but at 8.35 am we were told no kits are available, Sir kindly guide @himantabiswa @CMOfficeAssam”

Admitting testing kits are unavailable, National Health Mission Tinsukia responded: “Yes… Testing kits are presently out of stock in TINSUKIA. We will resume the testing facility once we receive the new stock.”

Joint Director of Health Services, Tinsukia, Dr Altaf Ahmed told EastMojo that about 1,300 tests were carried out on Monday before the testing kits ran out of stock.

“We have already raised the demand for testing kits with National Health Mission (NHM) and have been told the kits were despatched from Guwahati on Tuesday night.”

Ahmed said Tinsukia will be receive testing kits by Thursday morning. “According to information, there was a shortage of these kits at Guwahati as well. Hence, the delay,” said Ahmed.

Additional deputy commissioner (health) of Tinsukia Dipu Deka, however, told EastMojo that testing had not come to a complete halt.

“The stock of RAT kits at the district store ran out of stock, but those already distributed at the various testing centres continued testing on Wednesday. But this resulted in low testing. Since the stocks at testing centres were limited, they ran out testing kits at several centres, bringing testing to a temporary halt at some locations.”

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Tinsukia’s daily testing target ranges between 3,000 to 4,000 tests. “We will be receiving around 5,000 RAT kits today,” added Deka.

Similarly, the stock of RAT kits ran low in the Nagaon district due to which testing had to be temporarily stopped at Barapujia PHC during the later part of the day on Tuesday.

JDHS of Nagaon Dr Atul Pator said, “We have received new stock of 5,000 RAT kits on Tuesday, which should last for 1 day as our testing target with RAT kits is almost 5,800 per day, indicating that the supply of RAT kits to the district is hand-to-mouth level.”

“Normally, we place demand up to 20,000 kits at a given point of time depending upon the stock in the district store. The present stock of VTM kits for RT-PCR test in the district is 4000,” Pator said.

In Assam, NHM is the agency responsible for procuring and distributing testing kits across the state.

Assam NHM’s Mission Director Dr Lakshmanan S told EastMojo that many locations have exhausted their stock of testing kits. “We received one lot of testing kits on Tuesday and despatched around 1 lakh kits to several districts as per requirement.”

“The procurement of these kits is an ongoing process. We are about to receive another lot of testing kits today,” he added.

“It is an evolving situation and the shortage depends on multiple factors and demands from various states,” Lakshmanan said.

On Tuesday, Assam carried out 62,628 COVID-19 tests across districts. 

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