Saturday, June 05, 2021

RT-PCR trouble for flyers from remote villages

Mumbai: Procuring that negative RT-PCR report which is now mandatory for domestic passengers flying into most states is easier said than done for passengers living in mofussil areas of India. A family of four travelling from Koraput in Odisha to Mumbai were forced to undergo a second RT-PCR test after they reached Visakhapatnam as the lone government-run medical college which offers the medical facility in their home district issues the report in a format that isn't acceptable to airlines.

On Wednesday, Samir Patra (name changed on request) along with his family underwent an RT-PCR test at SLN Medical college and hospital in Koraput. ``That is the only medical facility in the district where an RT-PCR test can be done. It runs an ICMR accredited lab for Covid test. There are no private testing centres for Covid in Koraput,'' said Patra, speaking to TOI on Friday.

Koraput is part of the Adivasi belt in southern Odisha. Unlike testing facilities in urban centres that go to great lengths to keep the test results private, the Koraput college follows a different format.

A common report, in tabular form, is issued for all patients that underwent the test on a particular day. Nine rows carry details like names of patients, sample ID, age, sex, specimen type, date of sample testing and finally the result, stating whether the patient concerned has tested negative or positive. On Thursday, all the 19 samples, including the four samples collected from his family, tested negative.

The next day the family travelled to Visakhapatnam to buy an airline ticket and board a flight to Mumbai. But at the IndiGo counter, the Patras were asked to produce individual RT-PCR reports. The airline staff asked the family to download individual reports from the ICMR website. ``I called up SLN Medical college. They told me that they don't upload the PCR reports onto the ICMR website and so I cannot download it,'' he said. ``It's a remote tribal area, there are no facilities. The policy makers are unaware of the realities in rural areas. It's not possible to get separate RT-PCR reports for each individual,'' he said. TOI mailed a query to IndiGo, the airline did not comment.

05/06/21 Manju V/Times of India

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