‘Maharashtra’s Order for Mandatory RT-PCR Test Lacks Scientific Basis’

A doctor takes a swab from a woman to test for COVID-19 in Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, in Mumbai. Photo: Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas

New Delhi: The Maharashtra government has issued a new order with effect from April 10 for people delivering essential services and who have not been vaccinated yet to carry negative RT-PCR reports valid for 15 days. This directive is issued for staff engaged in manufacturing units, e-commerce services and restaurants, amongst other services.

Visitors will be allowed into government offices if they have tested negative on an RT-PCR test within 48 hours of their entry. Those conducting class X and XII examinations will also have to have tested negative in the last 48 hours.

A health ministry official told Times of India, “If an essential worker is asymptomatic and has tested negative on RT-PCR, then the certificate would be valid for 15 days unless he/she develops symptoms in between or is termed as a close contact of an infected person. In that case, she will have to undergo the RT-PCR test again.”

The state health ministry has said these measures are an attempt to catch “super spreaders”, according to The Times of India.

However, Sudhir Mehta, president of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture, told The Hindu Business Line, “Mandatory RT-PCR tests every 15 days in Maharashtra for industry, trade and services is completely untenable and without scientific basis. We don’t have the lab capacity and this will delay tests for those with symptoms. For half the cost, we can vaccinate everyone” in the state.

Per WHO, the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2 is about 3-5 days, and an infected person can develop the disease generally within five days and up to 14 days after contracting the virus.

P. Srinivisan, technical director at Neuberg Diagnostics, Gurugram, told The Hindu,“The validity of an RT-PCR test is restricted to the day of testing. You can still pick it up the next day and it could turn out to be positive.”

Dr D.B. Kadam, a senior physician heading a COVID-19 task force in Pune, told Times of India, “Close contacts of an infected person often test negative initially but the same individual, when tested on the fifth day of coming in contact with infected person, tests positive. This is because the most common incubation period for the coronavirus is five days of contracting the virus. This may go up to 14 days.”

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