New Delhi: Passengers traveling by Delhi Metro can now get tested for Covid-19 for free at metro stations. Around 10 stations on a rotation basis will have testing kiosks set up, according to officials of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
The kiosks will have both rapid antigen tests (RAT) as well as RT-PCR, the gold standard for Covid screening.
The DMRC had sent the proposal to the Delhi Transport Commissioner in the first week of September. At the time, higher authorities in DMRC sought permission to have testing kits available for DMRC staff, sources told ThePrint
Confirming the development to ThePrint, Delhi Transport Commissioner Manisha Saxena said she received the proposal and that it was forwarded to the revenue department since “the transport department doesn’t look into testing”.
“This officially kicked off in November. However, it was a gradual development as initially only a few stations like Chandni Chowk, which are usually quite busy, had testing counters,” said a DMRC spokesperson, who asked not to be named.
The testing facility is now being extended to passengers as well. “If those travelling by metro … wish to walk up to the counter and get tested, they have the freedom to do so,” said the spokesperson.
The facility was initially limited to just RATs, but now also includes RT-PCR tests.
As of Friday, six stations had staff deputed for testing, including a lab technician and four civil defence volunteers. The stations were Nehru Place, ITO, Badarpur, Chandni Chowk, Inderlok and Netaji Subhash Place.
ThePrint reached Special Commissioner, Transport, Shashi Kaushal, who is in charge of DMRC, for a comment. She replied that since took up the post just this week, she would not be able to comment at the moment.
Testing facility available immediately
The testing kiosks are being put up in the “unpaid areas” of stations, said DMRC officials. These are the areas passengers cross before going through the turnstile to reach the platform. Typically, it’s where the ATMs and food stalls are located inside a metro station.
Manoj, a technician from a Delhi government lab at the ITO station, said, “So far, we haven’t seen so much rush since a lot of people don’t realise we’re sitting here for testing. Now that people will get to know, they can come forward.”
He said details of people getting tested will be noted down and the reports will be sent to them via email or text message.
A lab technician, part of the test squad at Nehru Place station, told ThePrint, “We will sit here from 10 am to 3 pm as then the samples have to be processed.”
While RAT test results can be determined at the station, samples for RT-PCR tests have to be sent to labs.
The divisional commissioner’s office forwarded directions to district magistrates to send teams for testing in metro stations in their areas according to their roster, a senior Delhi government official told ThePrint.
Shahdara District Magistrate Sanjeeb Kumar said he received the order two days ago and three stations in his district will be used for testing. “If someone tests positive for RAT, then we follow the regular guidelines and a person isn’t allowed to enter the metro … The reports for RT-PCR are sent through texts or email.”
He said the tests will be carried out for both staff and passengers.
Delhi metro services, which were suspended for over five months, resumed in phases starting 12 September. Following DMRC guidelines, stations in containment zones still remain closed.
So far, only asymptomatic passengers have been allowed entry while the DMRC ensures everyone is wearing masks and maintains appropriate social distancing. To that end, civil defence volunteers conduct surprise inspections inside metros when it halts at stations.