Sikkim: First COVID-19 positive patient-reported; State yet to start sample testing

May 20, 2020: With the first COVID-19 positive case already reported in the Himalayan state of Sikkim, the state is yet to start the testing of samples although a testing laboratory, the Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VDRL) has already been established.

The testing lab was established on 21st May with the accreditation done on the inaugural day itself.

“The accreditation we had done on the day of the inauguration, on the 21st and we had also sent the video of the lab to ICMR and got the accreditation. Then after that, we got 4 samples from North Bengal Medical College for testing, the reports of which they knew but didn’t share with us. So we did that testing and our report tallied with their report so this is how we passed it.” said Dr Pempa T Bhutia, Director General and Secretary, Health Department, Government of Sikkim.

However, testing kits were found to be unavailable when a conformity test was going to be conducted. Dr Bhutia reasoned that the delay in the process is due to the need to follow some official protocols and unavailability of testing kits.

“There are some official things which have to be followed and we have to do the accreditation of the lab first. Then we have to do the screening test and we have to pass that,” he mentioned.

“Next phase is a conformity test, which we received around 2 or 3 days ago…But when we were supposed to do that we found that we had not yet been sent the testing kits by ICMR. On inquiring we were informed that kits have exhausted and we should ask from Calcutta.” ha added.

He further claimed that since then, the Sikkim government has been following up with NICED In Kolkata and they have begun receiving kits since Friday.

“Since then we are following up with Kolkata. The tourism department has nominated one officer to follow that. It is coming through a personal hired vehicle from yesterday morning. It will reach here by today. We are receiving all the items in NSM by today. The setting is going on.” said Dr Bhutia.

Given that everything goes as planned, the samples will be tested on Saturday. Although he couldn’t be much sure about its possibility.

“If everything will be fine, we will test those samples tomorrow. I am not sure about this but we are trying to do it by tomorrow, that will be our first samples. As everyone is new so we can’t expect to do more tests and as it goes on slowly, we will be able to take more tests.” Dr Bhutia said.

He has also assured that the tests will be conducted as soon as possible.

“We have brought the samples to STNM hospital and have kept it in a refrigerator there because we are also trying our level best to start our lab at the earliest.”

The first COVID-19 positive case in Sikkim was reported on 23rd May.