Citizens are now opting for rapid antigen tests (RAT) instead of RT-PCR, following which the demand for the test in private laboratories across Mumbai has dropped.
Except for government-run centres, people are mostly opting for at-home antigen testing kits. However, some of the labs have witnessed a surge in the number of samples by 15-20 per cent since the Centre ordered an increase in testing.
Health officials said the main reason to opt for RAT is the convenience, but people should understand that RAT gives false positive results so they should do an RT PCR test instead, considered the gold standard for testing.
Dr Nilesh Shah, president of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, said the volume of testing demand has not increased as people are conducting self-tests or completely avoiding tests when symptoms are mild. However, the positivity rate has increased across India.
“Moreover, the fear with respect to Covid and getting tested has dropped drastically, while the demand for home testing is growing in all sections of the society, mostly for travel purposes. However, people are not ready to get RT-PCR tests done,” he said. “We had a positivity rate of 35per cent on June 15, but it's not worrisome as all are milder cases. But people shouldgettheirRT-PCRtests done if they have symptoms, instead of opting for home testing kits. I would suggest that citizens should not avoid the test and ensure reporting to authorities,” Dr Shah said, adding that self-testing can give false negatives and hence, symptomatic negatives should get a lab RT-PCR test.
A senior officer from a private laboratory said there has been a surge in the number of samples coming infor testing at the laboratory after February.
After the third wave the demand had dropped drastically as only 100-150 samples were tested on a daily basis, but new demand has resulted in an increase of almost 15-20 per cent. “Since there has been a spurt in Covid cases across India and Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai, the demand for Covid testing has increased from the government sector, as compared to the corporate sector. Moreover, people are now opting for home testing kits which are unreliable,” he said. Dr Lancelot Pinto, consultant pulmonologist and epidemiologist at PD Hinduja Hospital, said, “It is likely that individuals who test do so to know if they have the infection, and consequently, will isolate themselves and seek treatment if necessary.
The fact that individuals are testing themselves should be celebrated and encouraged, rather than focusing on how the testing is done. Home antigen kits have high specificity (unlikely to be falsely positive), and correlate well with transmissibility, thereby serving an important purpose.” However, people must be reminded that a home antigen test, when negative, should be confirmed with an RT-PCR if the symptoms suggest Covid, he added.