MUMBAI: This week, the civic corporation will start using rapid tests, which can reveal a person’s Covid status within 15 minutes. Currently, the real-time polymerase chain reaction test gives results in six to eight hours.
While rapid tests are synonymous with blood tests that look for antibodies, the BMC has chosen an antigen-based test that will work on nose swabs. This test has been developed by a South Korean firm, S D Biosensor, currently the only company approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to perform rapid antigen-based tests.
Municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal told TOI the antigen test kits are expected to arrive via air cargo in Mumbai from Gurugram by Sunday. The first consignment will contain one lakh test kits.
The rapid test is in keeping with the BMC’s “chase the virus” strategy. The kits will be used to test people in containment zones and quarantine centres as well as health care workers in hospitals.
There is fear, though, the number of cases could significantly increase as more tests are conducted.
The BMC plans to increase tests conducted daily by 50% from the 4,000-odd now.
Chahal said there is no reason to panic. “Even if the number of patients rises, we do not anticipate additional testing will cause any burden on hospital beds,’’ he said, as many may be asymptomatic. Currently there are 6,417 beds available of the total 18,412.
Chahal also said the protocol they plan to follow is that the test kits would be distributed to various laboratories in the city. They would be asked to use the kits to test patients from containment zones or those currently in quarantine.
On the next consignment of antigen test kits, Chahal said it would be a continuous cycle of procurement after the first one is over.
BMC officials, though, have said with monsoon here, they need to be more cautious about where the screening camps are organized.
Some corporators have been critical of the BMC’s screening camps in containment zones. “We find many people gather together at one place, which is not a good practice in these times,” said Borivli’s former corporator Abhishek Ghosalkar.

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