Testing to begin from May 25, with installation and dry runs to continue for 10 days, says STNM medical superintendent Credit: EastMojo image

Gangtok: The much-awaited COVID-19 viral testing lab equipment for Sikkim reached Bagdogra Airport on Thursday afternoon onboard an Indian Air Force aircraft, IAF LifeLine 1.

The consignment from the National Institute of Pathology, NOIDA, has 184 pieces of medical equipment which was shipped by state resident commissioner Ashwini Kumar Chand through IAF from Sikkim House, New Delhi late night at 2 am on Thursday. The consignment was unloaded by 5 pm and taken via road to the state from Bagdogra airport.

STNM Hospital medical superintendent Dr Passang Bhutia asserted that the lab will be functional from May 25. He stated, “The consignment for the lab includes the coveted RT-PCR machine, biosafety cabinet, laminar flow which is an air current system as the lab will require even airflow. It also includes a refrigeration machine which will be for sample storage at negative 70 degrees Celsius along with many other needs of the Hospital and the State. The same will be sanitized, unpacked, and sent to the State via road”. A similar consignment for the lab was facilitated by Alkem Pharmaceutical Company which reached STNM Hospital on Wednesday.

Consignment upon arrival at Bagdogra airport being unloaded for further transport by road to Sikkim

For the installation of the lab, four technicians are being brought from New Delhi. “These technicians will be first tested for COVID 19, then for their work, they will be quarantined in the lab facility, which will be strictly out of bounds for the people until completion as we do not want them to mix with people in Sikkim. The technicians currently from Kolkata laying the epoxy flooring will be sent latest by tomorrow, creating room for the other 4 to be brought to the facility. It takes three days for the epoxy to dry, depending on how dry the facility will be, we will start the installation along with technicians from New Delhi”.

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Once the machines are installed, the lab will not be functional for testing right away, claimed the medical superintendent.

He stated, “First the machines need to be calibrated followed by almost 10 samples to be sent to ICMR in New Delhi or North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri for approval. Once the tests from the STNM Viral lab match with the standard of ICMR or any other functioning viral lab, then we will secure the authentication. Following which we will tests our first batch with a possibility for 800 samples to be tested per day, as RT-PCR can be conducted for multiple tests at a given time”.


STNM Hospital medical superintendent Dr Passang Bhutia

The state chief minister in a meeting to prepare a further road map for the State on Lockdown 4.0 announced that the state viral laboratory is on the verge of completion and the RTPCR machine is reaching the state today by a special Indian Airforce Flight. He said that the new viral laboratory at Covid-19 dedicated STNM Hospital will be functional in a few days.

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On the much anticipated RT-PCR testing machine, the Medical Superintendent defined it to be as, “box-like machine which will also include extraction cabinet for swabs, medium for its transfer which needs to be centrifuged and concentrated, followed by a procedure for separation from the medium, with the virus being segregated for its RNA and DNA structure, followed by testing on the machine. A Bio-Safety cabinet will also be in place for the transfer of the medium and avoiding spillage. The whole structure will look like a cupboard that will be set up and the same will come in handy to avoid spillage. There will be evaporation, which needs to be filtered out and that is when the virus could be detected if it gets stuck”, stated STNM Medical Superintendent.

On the safe filtration of the lab facility, the medical superintendent asserted that the same must not be in connection with an air filtration system to avoid an accident and to counter manufacturing a virus in the lab.


Resident commissioner Ashwini Kumar Chand with his team in New Delhi with the 3,427 kg consignment before being shipped to Bagdogra airport.

As per the ICMR regulation, the lab needs to be spread across at least 300 square meters. “We have almost reached the requirement at 280 square meters which will include 13 rooms for the lab facility of which five rooms need to be for testing purposes. It also includes safety passage with special doors; flooring has to be epoxy with no porous area and the ceiling of galvanized steel. At least three rooms have to be as such. Earlier, we had used vinyl material for covering of walls, floors, and ceiling, but once the flooring was completed and walling had begun, the local workers here noticed air bubbles as the walls were not dry. So we opted for epoxy with special technicians from Kolkata being brought for such work, we had failed to do so previously for vinyl flooring and walling, as the moisture was an issue here in the State, such materials and facility need a dry environment,” he stated.

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The medical superintendent highlighted facing issues with the supply of materials, resulting in a delay in completion, as most of West Bengal was closed for retrieval of much-needed materials. The completion of the lab will settle the long-pending demand for a viral lab in the State, which was initially approved for functioning by ICMR in the State Hospital in Sikkim in 2015.

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