Health dept expands antigen testing to zero in on possible clusters

In a bid to detect clusters of Covid-19 infections in the district, the health department has expanded the reach of antigen camps to four more healthcare centres — at Naharpur Roopa, Fazilpur, Firoz Gandhi Colony and the department’s polyclinic in Sector 40’s Jharsa village — this week, taking the coverage of rapid antigen camps to 35 PHCs/UPHCs in Gurugram.

This is up from the 31 camps held the previous week and 28, a fortnight ago. A total of 15 such camps are being organised daily, up from just under 10 per day last month, according to information shared by the district health department.

Department officials said that rapid antigen tests (RATs) will continue even in areas which are no longer notified as containment zones, where their use was recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“Earlier, we were using rapid tests to quickly isolate positive cases from hotspot areas and break the chain of transmission. After the decline in new cases from mid-November, we are using antigen tests more as a surveillance tool. We are trying to cover as many localities as possible so we may detect any small outbreak, at which point more RT-PCR tests and contact tracing will be done in that place,” said Dr Jai Prakash Sharma, the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme’s district surveillance officer for Gurugram.

This was the case in Bhangrola, for instance, which does not feature in the district administration’s list of notified containment zones. “The number of antigen camps under the Bhangrola primary healthcare centre (PHC) has been doubled this week, from five to 10, because we started seeing more positives coming from that area through contact tracing. Anganwadis, public schools, and health subcentres have been roped in to administer rapid tests to anyone walking in with symptoms. In case antigen positivity rises in the area in the next week, then we know that we have an outbreak on our hands,” said Dr MP Singh, the nodal officer for antigen campsites.

However, antigen positivity rates are presently at an all-time low. “We are doing between 150 and 200 RATs per day, of which not more than two or three are testing positive for Covid. And the cases are also scattered across Gurugram, so we are able to say with surety that we are not missing any significant clusters,” said Dr Sharma.

In areas like Bhangrola and Badshahpur, where most new cases are concentrated, Sharma said that the number of antigen camps has increased, but not yielded any evidence that there is unchecked transmission happening in the area.

There are currently no plans to roll back the frequency or geographic coverage of antigen camps in Gurugram. “In our experience, clusters of infection are detected faster when we create access to testing. Antigen camps will continue as a pre-emptive measure. All PHCs and UPHCs will be covered on a rotational basis,” said Dr Virender Yadav, the chief medical officer for Gurugram.

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