Coronavirus: Govt upscales sampling and testing facilities


Gearing up to the challenge posed by Coronavirus (COVID 19) health pandemic, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has taken a combination of containment and mitigation measures to slow its spread by testing and treating patients, carrying out contact tracing, limiting travel, quarantining citizens and cancelling large gatherings. It has upscaled its sampling and testing capabilities significantly to reduce the spread and impact of the virus.

Testing allows identifying the infected person, guiding them to medical treatment, their isolation and tracing and quarantining their contacts. The increased sampling and testing has become all the more important as the migrant workers and students belonging to the Union Territory are returning back to their home districts. Government is ensuring that every returnee gets tested before going back to their home district.

A health worker from a protective booth takes samples of a stranded passenger at TRC Srinagar, on Thursday, May 7, 2020, after they return back from different states of the country.KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

In Jammu division, the Health and Medical Education Department is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all inward movement into the UT is sampled and tested. In order to facilitate the testing, the Government has already established a testing lab at Microbiology department, GMC Jammu. As per CMO Jammu, Dr. J.P. Singh, around 1000 tests are being performed on a daily basis in Jammu Division alone for suspects for Novel Corona Virus .

The department is using RT-PCR testing kits as a method of testing by taking a nasal/throat swab from a patient. It involves extracting ribonucleic acid or RNA, which is the genetic material of the virus. Apart from GMC, tests are also being conducted in IIIM Jammu and Army Command Hospital, Udhampur. More than 18000 tests have been conducted in Jammu division till date. Dr Lal Path Labs, Jammu has been approved by ICMR to perform the tests

A medical professional checks the body temperature of a passenger at TRC Srinagar on May 7, 2020. A few hundred Kashmiris, who were stranded in different parts of India had returned to Srinagar. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

In order to further increase surveillance and detection of infection, a robust sampling mechanism has been put in place. Sample collection is being done at Gandhinagar hospital and GMC in Jammu district and in all District hospitals and CHCs. Following the permission granted to the return of stranded migrant labourers,   special sample collection centres have been set up in Lakhanpur in Kathua, Thandi khui in Samba, Tikri in Udhampur, one in Doda. All migrant labourers and truck drivers are being tested at Lakhanpur. Further, the department has increased the sample collection to more than 3000 samples per day and every effort is being laid on taking it to 6000 samples per day. Mobile sample collection vans in Jammu and Udhampur districts have also been pressed into service for reaching out to the people at their doorstep and increasing the sampling capacity. In Jammu district the vans have already been used to collect samples from areas like Kanak mandi, Fruit mandi Narwal, Oil depot of Indian Oil Corporation, as communicated by CMO, Jammu So far 434 samples have been collected by the Mobile van since 27th March. Over 21000 samples collected so far in Jammu division.

The Health Department has also issued advisories from time to time urging people not to step out of home, unless absolutely necessary. It has urged people to wear a mask while stepping out of their homes and practice social distancing, personal hygiene and frequent handwashing with soap and water. In case of any emergency, people can avail free ambulance services 24×7 at their doorsteps by calling on toll-free number 108 while as pregnant women and sick infants can avail free ambulance services by dialling toll-free number 102.

Passengers wait for their turn for COVID 19 testing in Srinagar on Thursday, May 7, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

People can also call on toll-free national helpline number 1075; J&K COVID-19 Helpline Numbers 0191- 2549676 (UT level Cell), 0191-2520982, 0191-2674444, 0191-2674115 (For Jammu Division), for support, guidance, and response to health-related queries on Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).


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