Rapid testing enables KP health dept to boost surveillance of Covid patients

PESHAWAR: The health department has been diagnosing coronavirus patients quickly with the help of antigen detection rapid diagnostic test (Ag-RDT) as 12 more people have died of Covid-19 and 276 new patients have been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The new testing method, started a fortnight ago, has enabled the health department to get fast results of suspected patients at the airports, border and sentinel sites. Other provinces are yet to introduce Ag-RDT, which is recommended by World Health Organisation.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad Capital Territory have been using the rapid kits for quick results,” officials said. They said that the department procured 100,000 kits that were distributed among the districts to ensure prompt diagnosis of the suspected patients.

Unlike the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, which takes at least 24 hours to deliver results of the swabs, the Ag-RDT method is being used to diagnose the suspected people quickly.

New kits have been supplied to all districts of the province

The PCR’s capacity of the province is around 5,000 and it requires technical experts and high-tech machines to perform tests and furnish results via courier service. However, the Ag-RDT method can be used by technicians locally and the results of the swabs become available within 30 minutes.

“So far, we have performed 16,422 tests using Ag-RDT of which 626 have emerged positive and 15,796 are negatives in sentinel sites, airport, Pak-Afghan border and contacts of the positive patients,” said officials.

During the last 24 hours, the province tested 787 samples through Ag-RDT, which enabled the health officials concerned to decide about the patients on the spot.

As opposed to the innovative testing, the suspected people have to wait for longer period because of huge workload on the PCR Covid-19 laboratories. The province has 17 Covid-19 PCR laboratories but transportation of samples from the health facilities and subsequent dispatching of results create problems for the people as well as the health authorities to make decision about the patients.

“We can now make timely decisions about the suspected patients due to rapid results. The suspected people are either come positive or negative in shorter period of time and they are told to isolate in case of positive or are declared negative. It saves them from problems,” said officials.

They said that correctness of the Ag-RDT was 60 per cent. They said that the method of collecting swabs was similar to that of PCR as for both nasal and throat swabs were taken from the people with symptoms. However, the symptomatic patients if tested negative on Ag-RDT were re-tested through PCR to reconfirm their negativity, they added.

Officials said that the new kits were supplied to all the districts as the provinces were allowed to procure them at their own. They added that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would purchase more kits to be able to save people from longer wait for the results of Covid-19 tests.

“The new mechanism of diagnosis of patients has also enabled the health department to strengthen surveillance and contact tracing. If a person tests positive then we can test his/her close contacts within minutes,” said officials.

Meanwhile, the province’s death toll due to coronavirus reached 1,740 and number of cases to 61,424 since the onset of the pandemic. The number of active cases is now 3,149.

So far, 56,535 patients have recovered from the virus with 296 more recoveries recorded during the 24 hours, according to a health department’s report. It said that six persons passed away in Peshawar, the hardest-hit district of the province, while two breathed their last in Swabi. One each died in Abbottabad, Haripur and Bannu due to coronavirus. A total of 2,152 people are in quarantine in the province. A total of 525 patients are in hospitals and 32 of them are on ventilators.

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