Symptomatic Covid-19 patients testing negative in a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) will have to undergo Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT PCR) test in order to qualify as non-carrier of the virus, the state health department has mandated.
Health officials said on Tuesday that directions have been given to civil surgeons of all 24 districts in Jharkhand to ensure that all symptomatic Covid patients undergo RT PCR tests before qualifying as Covid negative. Asymptomatic patients, however, may be treated as Covid negative if RAT test concludes the same, officials added.
The decision of making RT PCR tests mandatory for symptomatic Covid-19 patients, officials said, was taken in accordance with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines.
“The decision has been taken in accordance with the ICMR guidelines. Researchers at ICMR may have found that RT PCR tests were more reliable than rapid tests in detecting whether an infected person has recovered or not,” said State National Health Mission (NHM) director Ravi Shankar Shukla.
Rapid Antigen Tests are also conducted through nasal and throat swabs like RT PCR tests. However, the result of the test is out within an hour. Doctors say that RAT is a low sensitivity test compared to RT PCR, and may not be as accurate as the latter. The RT PCR test, on the other hand, takes around 48 hours, but the results are more accurate, doctors from the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) said.
However, patients testing Covid-19 positive in RAT test will not have to subsequently get tested through RT PCR in order to confirm that they were infected, health officials said.
The health department on Monday capped the charges for RAT at Rs 550, and said that private laboratories found guilty of charging exorbitantly will be booked under relevant sections of the State Epidemic Disease (Covid-19) Regulation, 2020. A person volunteering to undergo Covid test will have the option to get tested through RAT as well as RT PCR.
The government in Jharkhand has been running extensive Covid testing drives through RAT across the state. Health officials said that positive results in RAT are as accurate as the lengthier RT PCR test, but the latter was more accurate in testing if a patient has recovered from the infection.