Rapid testing shows false negatives, says Delhi HC; questions AAP
The Delhi High Court on Monday rapped the Aam Aadmi Party government over Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT), asking why it was being used as a primary test to judge coronavirus infection. A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad noted that antigen testing yields false negatives, eventually misleading on the spread. AAP was also told that Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) doesn't recommend this way of testing.
As Delhi's situation worsened, government focused on rapid testing
Delhi, where the coronavirus situation worsened in June, ramped up testing in the last few weeks. As a part of the agenda to trace, isolate, and treat COVID-19 patients, the government relied heavily on antigen testing. However, in the race to flatten the curve, Delhi increased the number of RAT tests and decreased RT-PCR, the primary mode of judging if someone has been infected.
Bench questioned the rationale behind rapid testing
Notably, the sero survey, conducted by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), found that 22.86% of Delhi's population was exposed to the virus without even realizing it. Pointing towards this data, the bench wondered why RT-PCR tests were only restricted for those showing symptoms. "Should we go by RAT at all, instead of RT-PCR?" the bench asked.
Despite capacity of 11,000, RT-PCR tests dipped this month
The bench noted that 54 labs across Delhi are capable of carrying out 11,000 RT-PCR tests daily. However, between July 15 and July 23, not more than 6,000 tests were done, said HC. "ICMR never said that RT-PCR, which is the gold standard test, be replaced with RAT," the bench said, adding that the AAP government must not follow its own interpretations of ICMR's guidelines.
Delhi government told HC it was following all guidelines
Defending the government, counsel Satyakam said the health department was abiding by all guidelines of ICMR. He said the apex body recommended RT-PCR tests for those showing influenza like illness (ILI) and testing negative in rapid testing. But the Delhi government included severe acute respiratory illness as well, meaning those having SARI and testing negative in RAT were sent for RT-PCR tests.
ICMR's guidelines need not be changed: HC
When Centre's standing counsel, Anurag Ahluwalia, told ICMR never recommended RAT tests for SARI patients, the bench asked, "Why are you tweaking ICMR advisory? Why are you including SARI? Tell your clients (Delhi government) to strictly follow ICMR advisory. You cannot interpret on your own."
Separately, as Delhi controlled the spike, Kejriwal felt "proud"
Meanwhile, on Monday, Delhi reported merely 613 new cases, its lowest increase in almost two months. The tally now stands at 131,219 with 3,853 dying. Beaming with joy, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said, "The Delhi model is being discussed in India and abroad." That Delhi managed to have a turnaround without any lockdown was also appreciated, he claimed.