No need to allow private labs for testing: Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender

NEW DELHI: There is no need to involve private laboratories for testing of Covid-19 in Telangana, the state’s health minister Eatala Rajender said, after his state’s testing numbers and Covid-19 cases tally were brought under the Centre’s scrutiny.

Telangana, which was the first state to extend the lockdown till May 29 even before the Centre took a call on national lockdown, has banked on only nine government laboratories for conducting RT-PCR tests and not allowed 11 private laboratories approved by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Speaking exclusively to ET, Rajender said: “Our present capacity is 2,000 tests per day and we are already conducting 1,200 tests. There is no need to allow private laboratories to conduct tests. It would unnecessarily spread panic among people and even asymptomatic people will rush to private diagnostic centres to get Covid-19 test done.”

Telangana’s decision against allowing private laboratories had taken political overtones with Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan writing to chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao asking him to allow private laboratories so that more samples could be tested and the turnaround time for test results be reduced.

Rajender said Telangana had benefitted from successive lockdowns and had extended it till May 29 to ensure the infectious disease did not spread in overcrowded areas in urban centres like Hyderabad, Warangal and Karimnagar. The minister attributed Covid-19 cases in Telangana to foreign travellers and Tablighi Jamaat congregationin New Delhi.

“Our first case in Telangana was of a foreign returnee. But the major spike in cases came when Markaz people from New Delhi (Tablighi Jamaat) travelled to the state. We identified a person in Karimnagar on March 17 and informed the Centre. The Markaz people have this tradition, you can call it (that), of going about and meeting more people in their locality after they return from such a congregation. This increased our numbers as primary and secondary contacts were a lot,” Rajender said.

The minister termed as “unfair” criticism of Telangana’s Covid-19 management and said it is incorrect to say the state was not testing enough or not reporting the deaths properly. “We have had 34 deaths so far. All the deaths have been of people with comorbidities like dialysis patients, cancer or heart problems. The situation is under control,” he said, adding 30 of 33 districts in Telangana are Covid free now for the last 21 days.

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