Free RT-PCR tests for foreign travellers

The mandatory RT-PCR tests for COVID-19 at airports for foreign travellers coming into the State will be done free of cost by the State government, Health Minister K.K. Shylaja has said.

The Minister said here on Friday that as the Centre had given strict instructions regarding the conduct of RT-PCR tests for those coming from abroad, the tests cannot be avoided. The traveller would be allowed to leave the airport after giving the sample and the results would be sent within 6-8 hours to the mobile number provided.

According to the guidelines, the expatriates may not use a public transport facility from the airport to reach his destination. They will be going straight into home quarantine for seven days. Even if they have tested negative in the RT-PCR test, they are advised to remain home for another seven days on self observation, the only exception being emergency travel. The test will be repeated on the eight day. On the other hand, if they tested positive in the RT-PCR test, they will go into institutional quarantine.

Ms. Shylaja said that airport surveillance was being strengthened as it was highly likely that the second wave of COVID-19 is likely in 16 States where the case graph has been rising. In a single week, the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the country had gone up by 31%, she said.

Mobile RT-PCR labs

Meanwhile, in an attempt to increase the quantum of RT-PCR tests rather than rapid antigen assays, the State has decided to engage mobile testing labs. Ten such labs will be deployed by March 15, with each lab performing 2,000 tests a day.

The idea is that these mobile labs together can perform up to 30,000 RT-PCR tests a day, in addition to the 25,000-odd tests done daily by other accredited labs.

The mobile testing facility has been outsourced to a Hyderabad-based firm, which will perform the tests at the rate of ₹448.2 a test. The cost will be borne by the Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd.

The first of these labs will start operating from Thiruvananthapuram airport from Saturday and three more mobile labs will be stationed at the other airports from next Tuesday.

The other mobile labs will operate from Kollam, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kasaragod and Palakkad. The mobile lab will be stationed at one point and the district health administration can choose the testing sites and send field workers for swab collection.

The order issued by the Health Secretary in this regard said that if there was a delay in reporting the results in 24 hours or if there were any discordant results, the lab’s licence would be cancelled.

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