K’taka reaches one crore Covid tests landmark

BENGALURU: Karnataka reached a milestone of 1 crore Covid-19 tests on Saturday, having come a long away from zero testing in January when samples had to be sent to National Institute of Virology in Pune. The state currently has 164 labs equipped for testing SARS-CoV2 infection. All 60 medical colleges in the state too have Covid testing facilities.
The state government is yet to specify the number of people who have been tested so far. This figure, say public health experts, is crucial to understanding the spread of the pandemic and streamlining its management.

Karnataka, which was testing close to 500 samples in the initial phase in early February, gradually enhanced its capacity. The target escalated from 20,000 tests a day in early July to 1 lakh testing a day by mid-September.
Dr CN Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in Covid-19 taskforce, said the state is equipped to handle any viral pandemic that might strike in the future. The credit, he said, goes to the data entry operators, swab collectors and microbiologists who have been working tirelessly for over seven months.
‘1 lakh tests a day must be the target till March 2021’
One crore tests is a major milestone that the state has reached. Initially, we had faced a shortage of RT-PCR machines required for testing. We mobilised the machines from universities, agricultural and veterinary colleges. There was a shortage of data-entry operators, and we now have more than 500 of them working in updating reports,” Dr Manjunath said.
Dr Ambika R, head of the department of microbiology at Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, who has spearheaded Covid testing since February, says there was only one RT-PCR machine in her lab when testing began. “Initially, we used to conduct close to 300 Covid tests a day. Majority of the samples were from Bengaluru and several districts of North Karnataka. As working in three shifts was not possible, all five staffers in the lab, including me, used to work from 8am to 10pm. We would go home only after submitting the Covid reports,” she said.
The entire team, she adds, was under acute stress in the initial phases. “For 2-3 positive cases, we have gone through sleepless nights,” she said. The lab’s capacity gradually increased and now, 14 staffers can conduct a total of 4,500 tests a day.


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