The Tamil Nadu Government has bought the first batch of rapid test kits from China at Rs 600 a piece while Korean firms are offering the same kits for half the price.
This has been admitted by Tamil Nadu Medical Services corporation managing cdirector Dr P Umanath. He disclosed to the media on Saturday the purchase orders placed with Chinese firms after Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin demanded at what price these kits had been bought by the Government.
Stalin cited a tweet by Chhatisgrah Health Minister in in which he disclosed that his State had ordered for 75,000 of these kits from a South Korean firm at Rs 337 piece minus GST.
Explaining why such a high price has been paid by Tamil Nadu, Dr Umanath said the State , which planned to import four lakh such kits, placed orders in instalments. Orders for the first batch of 50,000 kits were placed with Chinese firm Wondfo at Rs 600 a kit on April 3, a day after the Indian Council for Medical Research gave its approval.
He said that at that time, seven companies were cleared by the ICMR. “ On April 6, we ordered another 50,000 kits from the same company. On April 16, more companies were added to the approved list and the price became competitive”.
He said the prices paid by the two States cannot be compared. When the ICMR cleared the import on April 2, only a few companies were supplying these kits.”If we float another tender now, we may get these kits for a lower price”.
The State has 36,000 such kits, 24 imported from China and another 12,000 given by the Centre.
The rapid test kits, which test for presence of antibodies, is only indicative of infection. The confirmatory test is RI-PCR which directly tests the virus. Rapid test is not effective for asymptomatic patients in early stages, as antibodies are formed only after a week or so after the infection.
The ICMR also has said rapid tests should be done only in hotspots for surveillance to know how prevalent is the disease
Eventually, the State may scale down orders for rapid test kits and go for more PCR tests.