Government hospital officials wear masks as precautionary
India is scaling up its capability to test more cases for coronavirus | ANI File Photo
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New Delhi: The Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) in Gwalior has started conducting tests for COVID-19 cases, while also producing hand sanitisers in small quantities.

The DRDE, which is a part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is the nodal lab for the development of chemical-biological defence technologies and works on national preparedness against the use of such agents in warfare.

The body was selected by Madhya Pradesh health authorities to carry out the detection tests for people suspected of being coronavirus patients.

A senior DRDO official said the tests will be carried out with protocols “duly standardised in accordance with National Center of Disease Control (NCDC)”.

Also read: By failing to scale up testing coronavirus, India may have lost crucial time

Production of sanitisers

The DRDE has been producing hand sanitisers in its lab in accordance with the World Health Organization’s guidelines. It has produced at least 14,389 bottles of 500 ml each.

The formula is a tried-and-tested product that is already a part of DRDO’s inventory.

These sanitisers have been distributed to top security establishments, such as the National Security Council Secretariat, Special Protection Group, the defence forces and the Prime Minister’s Office. It has also been supplied to the National Technical Research Organisation, Central Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Bureau and government think-tank Niti Aayog.

“We are a R&D organisation and don’t have big production facilities. Some of the other DRDO labs have also been authorised to produce the sanitising solution in limited quantities,” the DRDO official said.

The DRDE might scale up its production based on future requirements, according the senior official.

Also read: How the hand sanitiser came about — from 12th century to 1997

DRDO implements extra measures

In addition to running tests, the DRDO has set up multiple screening mechanisms for its personnel and their families coming from abroad. At DRDE, which is a Biosafety level – 3 lab, such screenings have already begun, according to the official.

Multiple awareness programmes are also being run regularly and hand sanitisers distributed to all DRDO labs across the country. Further, DRDO has set up a 24X7 helpline to field questions on COVID-19 daily.

In an interview, Dr G Satheesh Reddy, DRDO chairman and secretary, Department of Defence R&D, said the Gwalior-based lab has developed diagnostic kits against enlisted biological agents like Anthrax.

Also read: Work from home, more sick leaves, no visitors: How Modi govt is keeping staff COVID 19-free


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