Defective ICMR kits led to COVID-19 testing delays: West Bengal

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The West Bengal Department of Health and Family Welfare on Sunday alleged that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been sending a large number of defective testing kits to the state.

In tweets, the state’s Department of Health and Family Welfare has urged the ICMR to investigate the issue immediately as the delays have resulted in the need for repeat and confirmatory tests that are slowing down the battle against the pandemic.

West Bengal has reported 310 cases of COVID-19 so far and 12 deaths, the Health Ministry’s data shows. The cases have been rising in the last three days.

While an ICMR response is awaited, the director of the Council’s nodal body in Kolkata said that the matter was being seriously addressed.

“It is unfortunate that the kits are not standardised to give exact results. It is difficult for each of the medical colleges to standardise the kits, hence, they are showing different and inconclusive results,” said Dr Shanta Dutta, Director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) in Kolkata.

Initially, she said, kits were being assembled and standardised at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. As the demand increased, the ICMR started importing ready-made kits and sending them to 26 depots for onward delivery to laboratories under its purview across the country.

NICED is one such depot and supplies kits to Odisha and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, besides West Bengal.

“There was no problem earlier when the testing kits were being received directly from the National Institute of Virology, Pune. Recently, the supplies to government labs in West Bengal have been routed through ICMR-NICED, Kolkata,” the department tweeted on Sunday.

“The apparently defective test kits supplied by ICMR-NICED are resulting in a high number of repeat/confirmatory tests and causing delays and other attendant problems at a time when we are battling a pandemic,” it said.

The tweets have raised eyebrows because of a reference to “mischievous reports in social media about the alleged delay in the time taken for testing swab samples” in the state.

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