Fliers spend thousands in private facilities as random tests stop

BBMP City COVID-19 Health

States ask for results not older than 72 hours

Bengaluru: The BBMP’s decision to stop random Covid-19 testing has forced people booked on flights to pay thousands of rupees to get tested in private facilities. 

Bikram Mandal, a student at the Wisdom Correspondence College, Bengaluru, said: “I had to go back to Kolkata. Since airlines have made it mandatory to get a negative Covid-19 certificate, all my batchmates had to pay Rs 800 to get the RT-PCR test (done) as the government has stopped free (random) testing.”

As India battles the second wave of Covid-19, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Assam have made it mandatory for passengers to get tested before boarding a flight. A few other states test passengers after they land. The test results should not be older than 72 hours before air travel.

Arunaditya Aima, a student of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, said: “After the lockdown, I had to travel to Delhi immediately and had to pay Rs 1,600 to do my RT-PCR test at a private hospital to get my report within 24 hours. As I had to leave immediately, I had no other option.” 

The Technical Advisory Committee, which met on April 24, advised suspension of random testing until further notice. Private labs charge Rs 800-1,050 for the RT-PCR test, and the testing time varies from two days to five days. 

Priti Singh, a student at the JSS Academy of Technical Education, said they were tested for free at a PHC on April 23, and she got her report two days later. “After this, free testing stopped. I had to pay Rs 1200 to get tested again in a private clinic.”

With a lockdown in place, inter- and intra-state travel via road has been stopped. PHCs in the city see this as a relief as they no longer have to do random testing in colleges, bus stands and railway stations.

Dr Siddappaji, public health officer (east), said: “It’s a little relief for us as our doctors are overworked. But this way we can ramp up vaccination drives in the city.”

According to state health department data, Karnataka’s Covid-19 tally leapt to 16 lakh on Sunday. Of these, 4.5 lakh were active cases. The positivity rate rose to 14.3% in April from 2.3% in March. This is proof of community transmission in Bengaluru.

The BBMP doubled rapid antigen tests (RAT) from 7,000 in April first week to 14,000 in the last week of April.

BBMP special commissioner (health) P. Rajendra Cholan, informed The Hindu: “The community spread has been confirmed, so we decided to stop random testing. We have increased RAT to help us identify cases quicker.”

With the positive cases doubling every week in the city, BBMP would have to ramp up testing and provide easy testing access to those waiting to board domestic flights.

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