“The self-test kits are being widely used now, which is a good thing as people start solating themselves almost immediately without infecting more people. One does not even have to step out for the test. Those who test positive on these kits are mostly consulting private practitioners and family doctors over phone for treatment since the Omicron variant is presenting only mild symptoms. So, this time we are seeing more self restraint among people compared to the previous waves,” said a senior health official, on condition of anonymity.
Chemist associations in the city said the demand for self-test kits has increased in the past one week due to a spike in Covid cases. The self-test kits, chemists say, cost around ₹250-275 and are easy to use. The associations are also taking measures to ensure that there is no shortage of essential medicines required for the treatment of Covid.
Sandeep Nangia, president of Retail Distribution Chemist Alliance in Delhi, said, “Around 5,000 plus self-test kits are being sold daily. The demand has increased in the past one week. Till end-December, we hardly got any request for these kits.”
He said the demand is more from upscale and middle-class neighbourhoods. “In south Delhi, we are providing around 3,000 kits daily,” said Nangia, who is also the organising secretary of All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists.
But on the flip side, it has also led to a section of Covid-19 positive cases being counted in the government records, at least four chief district medical officers (CDMOs) that HT spoke to said on Tuesday.
“In my district, so far, I have not yet received input of even one person who tested positive on the at-home kit. So, such people are getting treated on their own. In fact, in some cases these days, when we visit close contacts of someone who tested positive through RT-PCR testing, they say they’ll get tested on their own at home. Many such families have bought these kits in bulk to keep testing themselves in case symptoms develop,” said a CDMO on condition of anonymity.
All four CDMOs and other state healthcare workers said only those who are being tested through RT-PCR and rapid antigen modes are being entered into the government records. “RT-PCR is being recorded 100% in Delhi, even if it is being at a private facility. Even cases turning positive in rapid antigen tests are fully recorded by the administration because these tests are conducted only by government entities through camps and other such set-ups. But, there’s no administrative SOP for recording cases that test positive on at-home tests. That is also because it is almost impossible to track every such person unless they are responsible enough to inform the administration on their own,” a second CDMO said, asking not to be named.
According to the advisory issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), each of the at-home testing kit has a unique QR code to ensure traceability and genuineness. A user is instructed to log into the app of the respective brand, such as Mylab CoviSelf, CoviFind, etc., through their mobile phones. The user then has to click a picture of the test strip after completing the test with the same phone on which the app was downloaded. Data in the app will be centrally captured in a secure server which is connected with the ICMR Covid-19 testing portal, where all data will be eventually stored,” the advisory said.
Delhi on Tuesday reported 21,259 fresh Covid-19 cases and 23 deaths, as the positivity rate — rate of samples that return positive from among the total tested — also climbed to 25.65%. With the fresh cases and fatalities, the cumulative number of infections has risen to 1,590,155 and the death toll to 25,200. A total of 19,166 cases and 17 deaths were recorded in the national capital on Monday.
“Till 10 days ago, we used to keep just five to seven kits in stock. But now we are selling 50-60 kits daily. These kits are much cheaper than the RT-PCR test and very easy to use,” said Robin Sharma, who has a chemist store in Dwarka and is the president of the Dwarka Traders Association.
In Bhagirath Palace, Delhi’s biggest wholesale market for medicines, traders said more and more chemists inquiring about these kits. Ashish Grover, secretary of Delhi Drugs Traders Association, Bhagirath Palace, said, “We are now getting a lot of enquiries about the availability of these kits. The sales have also started, but there is no significant jump as such so far.”
Dr Nikhil Modi, Consultant Pulmonology/ Respiratory Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, said for admissions RT-PCR tests are mandatory. “But, getting an RT-PCR test is gradually taking longer due to high demand, most doctors are now recommending at-home tests to patients who complain of mild symptoms. It’s an effective tool for quick detection and isolation. But for admissions, RT-PCR is mandatory. most doctors are now the number of. In the hospitals, so far the situation is pretty manageable. But, it is not the case that admissions are not happening. The numbers (admissions) are slowly surging because the daily cases are also increasing. But, they are all mostly the ones who are sick or have severe disease. Fortunately, we have not had any deaths in our hospital so far in this wave. There is no Long Covid in the Omicron variant. People are recovering even in three days this time,” he said.