PIL in SC seeks use of simple blood test as screening tool, home quarantine instead of hospitalisation

Plea says swab test can only be done by expert hands with strict protective measures to prevent aerosol spread which is available in selected centers spread across India

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

NH Web Desk

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Union of India to in turn require all state governments to mandatorily start the rapid anti-body test as a screening tool for COVID, as urged by the Indian Council of Medical Research in its April 4 advisory, reports legal news website LiveLaw.in.

The petitioner-doctor, through advocate Rishi Jain, has submitted that after discussion in detail with technical experts from the Ministry of Health and after considering the several inputs, the final decision as to the advisory on anti body testing was prepared. The advisory was issued to start Rapid anti body blood test for Covid-19, in clusters with containment zones and in large migration gatherings.

It is pointed out that the advisory states that if the anti body test is positive then the protocol will be initiated for the treatment in the Hospital. It is also advised by the ICMR that home quarantine should be followed for 14 days if the rapid anti body test comes to positive.

"Presently, diagnosis is confirmed only through REVERSE TRANSCRIPTION -PCR TEST: Polymerase Chain Re-action Test using throat swab/Broncho AlvealarLavag. The procedure is cumbersome and can only be done by expert hands with strict protective measures to prevent aerosol spread which is available in selected centers spread across India", the petitioner elaborates.

"There is availability of rapid anti body blood test which identifies the patient as negative and positive. This simple test uses only blood sample and does not require expert hands, costly infrastructure, PPE Kits with less risks of aerosol spreads. The said rapid anti body blood test can easily be done on all asymptomatic patients coming with ILI (Influenza like Ilness)," he continues.

"Presently, the government has directed all private practitioners to report incoming cases with ILI (Influenza like Illness), H1 N1, Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI). All these diseases appear similar and it is difficult to differentiate without any screening test. Thus all these patients are directed to undergo the test, adding to their burden and pressurising them for RT-PCR Test which is done in limited centres and is a costly test".

"Rapid anti body test is a simple blood sample based test that can be done by any registered pathologist/technician and can give immediate result. If anti body test is negative then if warranted one can confirm by a real time RT- PCR TEST using throat/nasal swab. If RT-PCR TEST is also negative then it is most likely a non COVID-19 patient, having normal ILI (Influenza like illness) and can be treated accordingly. However, if RT-PCR TEST is positive then action as per protocol has to be initiated for Isolation Treatment and contact tracing," says the petition, as per the report carried by LiveLaw.in.

Further, the petitioner asserts that the ICMR is the highest medical research body presently dealing with all the works related to COVID-19, including the grant of sanctions and permissions for testing to authorised Centres in India, and that applications were invited by the Council from government and private medical colleges for setting up COVID-19 medical facilities.

"The ICMR has chalked out a strategy for COVID-19 testing in India, and has approved 8 testing kits to conduct rapid anti body test. The Council has already advised home quarantine for persons detected with COVID-19 and it is clearly stated in the advisory that unless symptoms become critical, person be kept in home isolation," says the PIL.

It argued that state governments and the Union government are spending huge amounts to maintain such quarantine homes, denting the state exchequer in a big way. "The state exchequer is being unnecessarily burdened and the hospital beds are being occupied for the quarantine purpose which is absolutely not required in country like India".

"The petitioner being a medical practitioner is opposing such kind of creation of isolation ward and requests this court to give directions to stop creation of quarantine home or isolation ward," it is urged in the petition.

"The petitioner feels that suspected persons be mandated by using same powers under Epidemic Diseases and Disaster Management Acts to be quarantined in their respective homes," the petitioner continues.

Moreover, the PIL advanced, it is necessary that directions be issued to the respondents "to procure and take over 50% beds of all private hospitals in this country to treat COVID-19 patients in near future in a stage wise manner".

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