Amid rising cases, Tripura ramps up testing facilities to combat COVID-19

With a spike in COVID numbers in the state, the government has invested in setting up testing centers in the districts in order to reduce loads on AGMC's microbiology lab.

Tripura has ramped up its testing laboratories and machine amid rising coronavirus cases and fatalities, officials said. Till recently, all tests were done at a single RT-PCR laboratory at the state-run Agartala Government Medical College (AGMC). The laboratory is equipped with a RT-PCR machine, a TRUENAT machine and a GenExpert machine, all state of the art technology to detect the virus.

According to health department reports, Tripura has tested 3,32,174 people for coronavirus till now, at the rate of 83,093 people per million. This massive testing bears credit to rapid antigen tests conducted at government health centres, tests conducted during a door-to-door survey held in July.

However, with a spike in COVID numbers in the state, the government has invested in setting up testing centers in the districts in order to reduce loads on AGMC’s microbiology lab.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Health and Family Welfare Director Dr Radha Debbarma said the state now has four COVID testing laboratories, including two RT-PCR laboratories and two TRUENAT units, while a third RT-PCR testing unit is expected to start soon.

Gomati district Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Niru Mohan Jamatia said a TRUENAT unit, which was available with them for diagnostic services of TB and other patients, has been repurposed for RT-PCR testing. The TRUENAT unit can analyse five samples in an hour.

Two other TRUENAT units were made operational at Ambassa District Hospital at Dhalai district, 90 km from here and Dharmanagar District Hospital in North Tripura district, 160 km from here recently, an official of the health department informed.

North Tripura district Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arunabha Chakraborty informed that a RT-PCR machine was installed at the district headquarters along with the TRUENAT machine.

“We have got the RT-PCR some time back. After we got the reagents in place, we are conducting tests since last four days”, Chakraborty said.

A third RT-PCR machine is waiting to be commissioned at the private society-run Tripura Medical College (TMC) and Dr BR Ambedkar Teaching Hospital at Hapania, 5 km from Agartala, shortly.

“We have the machine installed. Some final preparations are being done. It is expected to be able to start testing in a week or so”, an official of the hospital told this publication.

As COVID cases and fatalities jumped since August in Tripura, doctors said West Tripura district was found having 31 percent of all new cases; Agartala city was found particularly vulnerable to coronavirus since many cases were found without any recent travel or contact history.

In an effort to strengthen treatment infrastructure in the districts and lessen load on GBP Hospital at Agartala, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has been visiting COVID treatment centers in different districts in the last few weeks, asking the district authorities to treat patients there and refer only in emergency cases.

The government has also dispatched oxygen enabled beds, ventilators, injections and necessary drugs from Agartala to all eight districts as part of the move.

Earlier this month, the state health department has permitted over 15 private nursing homes and hospitals to conduct COVID tests and said they would get speedy approval for treating COVID patients if they are interested.

According to a report of the state COVID-19 control room, 207 lives have been claimed by the pandemic so far.

While fresh positivity rate stood at 2.1 percent on August 01, it stands at a whopping 5.78 percent now. 19,187 people were tested positive with the virus till date, out of which 11,925 have recovered. 7,030 are still under treatment.

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