Coronavirus in India: BMC to test asymptomatic patients after 5 days of quarantine

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The BMC had conducted 27,397 Covid-19 tests till April 13, against 2,17,554 tests carried out across the country. (Photo:PTI for representation)

In a change of guidelines, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has said it will conduct tests for asymptomatic patients for the novel coronavirus only after five days of quarantine if they show symptoms.

As per orders issued on Thursday, asymptomatic patients will be compulsorily quarantined for 14 days, but their swab test will not be collected immediately. Instead, samples of those in quarantine will be collected between the fifth and 14th day, if they develop symptoms.

The BMC, which was until now conducting swab tests of high-risk contacts of coronavirus patients as soon as they were quarantined, has taken the step to avoid the possibility of “false negatives”. Of the total test conducted by the civic body, 4.5% came out positive.

The civic body has said it will initiate strict action against government and private labs if they collect sample of an asymptomatic patient before five days.

The civic Body was of opinion that aggressive testing was not leading to optimum utilisation of the testing capacity and so now only those with symptoms will be tested.

Exceptions have been made to asymptomatic patients who are on dialysis, chemotherapy and pregnant women due to deliver in two weeks.

The rest will be quarantined at their homes if they have proper public facilities. Institutional quarantine will be provided to high-risk contacts of slum areas. Swab of these people will be taken through home collection facility if they show symptoms or they can report to fever clinics set up by the civic body. At fever clinics, doctors examine patients for symptoms before taking tests.

“This decision will help avoid false positive and negatives. There have been instances when a patient tested positive only after five days. Hence, new guidelines have been framed which will help us give hospital bed to patients with co-morbid conditions and people who need it more. Also testing after five days is what the ICMR guideline also says,” said a senior civic official.

Samajwadi Party MLA from Bhiwandi, Rais Shaikh, criticised the move and said the new guidelines could lead to an artificial sense of flattening of the curve.

“BMC is changing its policy every day. This shifting of goal post is creating a problem for BMC staff in handling the situation. BMC has added the new testing clause to conduct fewer tests. The number of positive patient cases will reduce which will not provide us with actual picture. It’s flattening of curve artificially,” he said.

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About the author: Sohom Das
Founder of Tuccho.

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