Assam: RT-PCR tests by teachers suspended due to kit shortage
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GUWAHATI: The lack of test kits has stalled RT-PCR testing by teachers in several districts of Assam.

Teachers from educational institutions have been crowding the Covid screening centers in recent days after State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asked teachers to be ready to do their assignments with negative test reports from September 1. However, new guidelines have been issued by the districts in recent days that the RT-PCR tests performed for teachers have been suspended due to the lack of viral transport media (VTMs).

A letter from the joint director and member secretary of the Golaghat District Health Society informed senior officials from the district’s education department of the decision to temporarily suspend RT-PCR tests for teachers on Wednesday. “Given the lack of VTMs, the RT-PCR test for teachers will be temporarily suspended pending further notification,” said the letter to the school inspector, Golaghat and the district’s primary school officer.

Health experts said VTM is needed to protect the virus from damage in swab samples and to keep it viable until testing is finished.

While a large number of teachers across the state have been urging Covid screening centers to run their RT-PCR tests since last week, following instructions from the Education Secretary, the new move in some districts has confused teachers. Many now suspect that educational institutions will not reopen in early September after health officials decided to temporarily suspend testing for teachers.

Teachers in Golaghat, Lakhimpur, and Sivasagar also said they were asked not to do RT-PCR tests right away.

Another order from Joint Health Services Director Jorhat said Thursday that all block PHCs and municipal health centers have been ordered to discontinue RT-PCR testing for school and college teachers and other educational institutions with immediate effect.

Health ministry officials said there are no instructions from the state government to stop RT-PCR testing for teachers. However, a lack of clarity in reopening educational institutions may be the reason for the district’s decision.

“Tests for teachers must necessarily be linked to the reopening of schools. If schools reopen later in September and teachers have their RT-PCR tests done much earlier, their reports may not be of any use. However, no order was issued for the entire state to halt RT-PCR testing, ”said a senior official from the state health department. Still, he added that teachers who show symptoms must be tested by the district officials.

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