The Sikkim health authorities on Thursday started rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 in the worst-affected Rongli sub-division in East Sikkim to flatten the rising curve of the pandemic. The sub-division that borders Bengal’s Kalimpong district has seen an alarming spike in the number of Covid cases, forcing the administration to enforce a total lockdown. More than half of Sikkim’s total 222 positive cases till Thursday have come from the sub-division.
Health workers spread out in groups to different parts of Rongli Bazar and Rhenock Bazar – the two places that have been declared containment zones – to carry out the tests. Unlike the commonly-used real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for Covid-19, a rapid antigen testing kit gives result in less than 30 minutes.
Pempa T Bhutia, the director general-cum-secretary of the Sikkim health department, said, to begin with, all the primary and secondary contacts of the positive patients would be tested. “We may cover the entire population, but it depends. We can’t say for now we will cover 100 per cent. We will keep on doing it (conducting tests) as per requirement,” he told The Telegraph. According to the 2011 census, the population of the sub-division was a little less than 28,000. The present population is expected to be anywhere between 30,000 and 35,000.
The health department has roped in health workers from others parts of the East district to help carry out the tests. “We may also pull in health workers from East, South and North districts to help in conducting the tests at Rongli since no screenings are being done in those districts,” said the health secretary.
The fear of the Rongli spread has even reached the doorsteps of chief minister P. S. Tamang (Golay) in Gangtok. On Thursday, Golay, his wife Sarda Goley and MLA son Aditya Goley gave their swab samples for testing in view of the fact one of the positive patients from Rongli is known to have come in direct contact with a minister. Swab samples of 92 others were also collected from the chief minister’s residence.
Report by Prakash, Special Correspondent Sikkim