Thiruvananthapuram: Stung by the criticism that the high daily caseload of Covid-19 in Kerala is due to the inadequacy of testing, the state government has organised the launch of mobile laboratories, which will offer RT-PCR tests for a reduced rate of Rs 448.
These tests are currently charged Rs 1,700, which acts as a deterrent for people to go for the cheaper option of less dependable antigen tests. It has been found that many of those who test negative in the antigen test are seen carrying the virus when they undergo the RT-PCR test.
Health minister K K Shailaja said that the mobile labs have been outsourced to a private company, named Sandore Medicals, which quoted the lowest rate. Any failure to provide the results within 24 hours would lead to cancellation of the licence, she added.
The private labs have often been found to take two days to provide the results in spite of the higher rate that they charged.
The government has decided to introduce compulsory testing of all those who come from abroad to detect new strains of coronavirus widely reported in some countries. RT-PCR tests at all airports would be free for those who come from other countries.
The first mobile lab is expected to start functioning at Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday. The labs in other districts would be operational by the middle of next month.
The move to introduce mobile labs follows the decision to increase the number of RT-PCR tests throughout the state as the state faces increased threat of infection, particularly in view of the assembly election that has just been announced.
Also, the government hospitals have been authorised to outsource the tests if they get samples beyond the capacity of in-house labs. Tests at government hospitals have always been free of charge.
The minister refuted the criticism that the state has failed to effectively control the virus spread despite the widely recognized Kerala model of Covid defence. She insisted that the state has been fighting the disease systematically, but expressed the fear that things might further worsen as people have failed to observe the Covid protocol with the required level of caution.