Need to go in for more after RAT
The directive of the Union Health Ministry to all States and Union Territories to compulsorily test all symptomatic negative cases of Rapid Antigen Tests through Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) to ensure no positive cases are missed is extremely significant. False negatives, this is what is scary for this is what can lead to spread of the virus amongst the general population and it is to check this that the Union Health Ministry has come out with such a directive. With the accuracy rate of RAT pegged at anywhere between 60 and 70 percent, it is not surprising that the Centre should come out with such a directive and records at Mumbai show that as much 65 percent of those tested turned out to be false negatives, 15 percent in Delhi and 7 percent at Telangana. False negatives, this is what is worrying and the natural question is how seriously has the State Government taken the instructions from the Union Health Ministry. A source from the State Health Department had explained that all symptomatic persons found negative via RAT are made to undergo RT-PCR testing, which is considered to be the gold standard for accuracy. This is fine but at the same time that this information was given to The Sangai Express on September 10, came the report that a man who hid his positive status (known after RT-PCR test on September 8), underwent RAT the next day and was declared negative and given some medicines for the flu ! How did the slip come about is the natural question that follows. The said man has been traced and he has been taken to a Covid Care Centre, but the question still remains whether the State Health Department is following the standard practise of subjecting all symptomatic persons who return negative result via RAT to RT-PCR testing or not.
The answer given by the source from the State Health Department however does not answer this question. At best it sounds more like a false assurance to negate the apprehension that may be triggered by false negatives. This is what is unacceptable. The question now is whether the State Health Department has records of the number of people who have been declared negative through RAT and are staying amongst the general population ? COVID-19 is not a joke. It was not for nothing why there was a Nationwide lockdown for days, crippling the economy and livelihood of thousands of people in Manipur and the least that one expects is some honest, sincere answer. Now that the Centre has issued such a directive, can one expect the State Government to follow this sincerely so that false negatives can be negated ? Given the accuracy of RAT, it should at best be seen as a method to see if a person is positive. If it is negative than he or she should be subjected to RT-PCR testing, which as said earlier is seen as the gold standard for detecting COVID-19 in the human body. The concern expressed here should be seen in the backdrop of the fact that Manipur has till date seen 44 deaths with 7470 positive cases and these statistics are no laughing matter.