New Delhi: Facing delays in the delivery of rapid testing kits from China, the Narendra Modi government has now cleared made-in-India kits, alongside those from other countries like South Korea, Germany and France.
The Indian firms approved to supply these kits are Gujarat-based Voxtur Bio, Delhi-based Vanguard Diagnostics and the government-owned HLL Lifecare.
On 4 April, India’s apex medical research body, ICMR, had approved the use of these tests in areas with a high number of Covid-19 cases (clusters), as well as those with large migration and a high number of evacuees.
Rapid antibody tests are prick-based tests that can detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies. They provide quick results and don’t need to be conducted in laboratories.
Delay in delivery
The government had placed an order for seven lakh kits with Chinese firms, which were supposed to deliver the consignment by 8 April. Overall, ICMR has invited bids for 45 lakh testing kits.
“There is a shortage of cargo planes due to which kits are stuck at ports. Basically, companies are facing logistics issues,” said G.S.K. Velu, chairman and managing director of Chennai-based Trivitron Healthcare, which imports kits from Chinese manufacturers.
“We had placed orders for testing kits from our supplier in China and currently they are facing delays in executing orders. I hope to get them by this week or next,” Velu said.
The delay in deliveries from China is leading to the postponement of the testing drive, which is critical at this juncture when India has crossed 10,000 Covid-19 cases.
Apart from the Indian firms, the ICMR and Drug Controller General of India Tuesday approved new testing kit manufacturers from Korea, Germany and France, as well as more Chinese firms.
According to the 8 April list of approved manufacturers, 33 suppliers were approved — 31 Chinese firms, one Korean firm and one from Israel.
In the latest list, dated 14 April, 51 manufacturers have been approved, of which 40 are Chinese, five Korean, one French, one German, one Israeli and three Indian firms.
What happens in a rapid antibody test?
A rapid antibody test shows if a person once infected by the coronavirus has developed immunity to it.
The human body develops two kinds of antibodies — immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG). These antibodies remain in the body from between a month to a year, or even longer in some cases.
The IgM antibody arrives within five to seven days of acquiring the infection, whereas IgG arrives later, when the person has recovered. When a person is IgG-positive, it means that the person has been exposed to the infection and their body has developed the immune response.
These tests are relatively cheap compared to the RT-PCR test, which is currently the standard Covid-19 test being carried out in the country. It costs Rs 4,500 to get an RT-PCR test done in a private lab. A rapid antibody test, meanwhile, costs approximately Rs 300.