Today, the necessity of the Indian new test kit is high since the fewer number of tests are not giving an accurate number of cases. Unless you have been living under the rock or have embarked upon a journey to know the pursuits of happiness without society like Chris McCandless, it is inevitable to be unaware of the pandemic of the corona. In the last weeks of 2019, as the world prepared to celebrate the beginning of the new decade, local hospitals in Wuhan province of China were dealing with the various causes of viral pneumonia which could not be treated after various trials of already existing vaccines and medicines into the patients. The scientist linked all these cases to the new strain of coronavirus which belongs to the wide range of viruses known to cause simple diseases like a common cold.
Throughout early January 2020, multiple cases of coronavirus were reported in multiple countries outside mainland China and this ended up with the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus infection outbreak as a global health emergency. Soon later, the reports of human to human transmission were confirmed and the number of infections and deaths continued to increase worldwide with the toll of cases passing the mark of 10000.
The New Pandemic – COVID-19
The WHO announced that the disease caused by this new strain of coronavirus will be called COVID-19. Since the virus was confirmed to transmit among humans at an extremely fast pace, it is important to identify the infected individuals and trace their contacts and place them in isolation as this would help to break the chain of transmission and limit the number of cases. The only way to identify patients is to increase the number of testing. WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he has a simple message to countries on how to deal with coronavirus: ‘test, test, and test’.
Development of Test kits
The rapidly spreading coronavirus has put test kits at the centre of how infected nations are diagnosing to control the transmission subsequently. The test kits work in a simple sequence; at first, a sample of mucous is collected by swabbing the nose or throat of the patient, then the sample is transferred to secure microbiology labs where the reagents are added to the sample in a tube, and with PCR technique, the genetic material of the virus is replicated and detected. However, the test is not always cent per cent accurate due to the hurdles of transporting the sample to the lab and also the condition of the lab handling the sample. This method of testing requires longer time and thus South Korea came up with the fast-paced corona testing kits with 98.3 per cent accuracy.
As the rest of the world still struggles to deal with the stabilizing the number of cases and flattening the curve of an increasing number of cases, South Korea dealt with the outbreak in their country by increasing the number of tests conducted and instantly isolating the confirmed cases. India developed its first corona test kit that was approved by ICMR on 23rd March. This has provided the benefit of cost to India who has been importing test kits till now.
As I write this article, the total number of officially confirmed cases in India lies at 4122 as of 8.20 pm on 5th April 2020. This is believed to be a number far less than the worst-hit countries in Europe and the USA where the number has exceeded hundreds of thousands. However, India has been criticized for having the lowest testing rate in the world, with just 6.8 tests conducted per million. This low testing rate only limits our capacity of understanding the extent of the spread of the virus in the country which in turn limits our capability to deal with the virus by isolating the affected individuals in the cluster and flattening the curve at an epidemic level. This makes it extremely important for India with a population density of 464 people per square kilometre to test as many suspects as possible and tackle the issue at an even larger scale.
The Indian test kit known as ‘Patho Detect’ was developed in the record time of six weeks by Mylabs Research and Diagnostic firm under Minal Bhosale, the Mylab’s research and development chief. This kit costs rupees 1200 as opposed to rupees 4500 per test kit that is imported and also efficiently provides results in a record two and a half hours while imported kits take six to seven hours per diagnosis confirmation.
One of the major reasons for India and the world resulting in the lower number of diagnosis is due to the shortage of test kits. Many consignments of test kits provided to the USA and Europe by China have also been deemed non dependable by the authorities and hence it becomes extremely important to manufacture the test kits at a rapid rate, preferably at home in the respective countries.
A New Challenge to India
Prime minister Mr Narendra Modi declared all India lockdown starting from 24th March to 14th April 2020. This was an extremely important move by the Indian government when the country was in the second stage of viral transmissions and it has helped significantly to curb the third stage of local societal transmission of coronavirus. Unlike the countries in the west, along with corona pandemic, India also deals with exercising the lockdown on the population of 1.5 billion along with ensuring the sufficient flow of items of everyday needs into the market.
Among the worst-hit countries remain Spain, Italy, Germany and the USA, these countries are known to have the best healthcare facilities in the world. With 3 beds per 1000 people available on average in the western healthcare system, the coronavirus outbreak is pushing the system to its limits. India has one of the lowest numbers of beds per thousand people, merely 0.5 beds per 1000 people with states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh performing far more poorly than the Indian average. Hence it becomes extremely important to contain the spread of COVID-19 in India as it will lead to mass deaths in the country with the inability to provide necessary healthcare to all.
The Global Burden Study in 2016 ranked India at 145 among 195 countries in Healthcare Access and Quality. With India being in the list of countries known to spend the lowest proportions of GDP on healthcare, India’s OOP stood at 65% as opposed to the global average of 30%. The OOP (Out of Pocket) expenditure refers to the amount of health expenditure paid by the citizens as a percentage of total healthcare expenditure of the country.
The pandemic now leading to the influx of the monetary funds from the country’s economy into the system, provides India with the golden opportunity to improve the healthcare system and hence overcome the loopholes and make it affordable to the poorest citizen of the country. This will only help to improve the overall loopholes in substandard healthcare in the country and make a mass improvement that will only prove beneficial in the long term.