India has come a long way from conducting just one Covid -19 test from the lab at National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune in January 2020 to a total of over 67 crore tests conducted as of today, according to official sources.
The increase in Covid testing capacity is the outcome of expansion in the network of testing labs in the country which was 1668 labs in September 2020 (1035 labs in the government sector and 633 private labs) and has since then doubled to 3117 labs in 2021 (1361 labs in the government sector and 1756 in the private sector), as per the official data available with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), official sources reveal.
The number of labs conducting Covid tests has seen a steady increase also this year. Today, there are 2014 labs alone conducting RT-PCR tests and reporting to the ICMR. There are around 238 RT-PCR tests approved by the ICMR which includes both indigenous and foreign tests.
“With the new Omicron variant, we are now seeing a rise in the demand for Covid tests. The demand is especially for rapid RT-PCR Covid tests given the requirement for mandatory testing of passengers at airports, railway stations and where there are large gatherings. Studies indicate a possible surge in cases by February, 2022 following the increase in the US and UK, which may lead to a multi-fold increase in demand for Covid tests,” according to Dr. Ravi, Head, R&D, TATA Medical and Diagnostics, which is a leading manufacturer of TATA MD CHECK routine and Rapid RT-PCR tests.
In December this year, Tata Medical & Diagnostics launched its indigenously developed fast-testing solution for Covid-19, Tata MD CHECK Express RT-PCR, which can be applied in multiple areas where quick, high volume and reliable testing is required, such as airports and events.
Last year in November, the company had launched its COVID testing kit, ‘TataMD CHECK’, developed in partnership with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB). It has been approved by the ICMR and the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).
“To address the growing number of Covid and Omicron cases, it is important to focus on test, track and trace. There should be emphasis on increasing the capacity for rapid RT-PCR testing that is fast, affordable, efficient and detects variants,” Dr. Ravi recommends saying that there is a need for a high throughput express RT-PCR test that would be economical and can give fast results.
“Tata MD CHECK responded to the situation by launching the indigenously developed rapid RT-PCR solutions that can provide rapid results with high accuracy. Another key advantage is that it targets 3 spike genes that are critical to detect infections caused by Covid variants, including the Omicron variant,” Dr Ravi said.
Mirroring the growth in the diagnostics sector, leading diagnostics chains like Metropolis Healthcare Ltd and Thyrocare Technologies Limited also saw an increase in sales and profit numbers due to rising demand of Covid testing.
Metropolis Healthcare Ltd sales increased to Rs 629 crores during first half ended September 2021 from Rs 431 crores in the corresponding period of last year. The company’s sales reached Rs 998 crore for the full year. Company’s net profit jumped to Rs 133 crores during the first half ended September 2021 from Rs 63 crore. Its net profit amounted to Rs183 crore for the full year. The net profit grew by 111 per cent, according to Financial Results of the company.
Thyrocare Technologies Limited sales increased to Rs 341crore crore during first half ended September 2021 from Rs 210 crore in the corresponding period of last year. For the full year, its sales went up to Rs 495 crores. The net profit went upto Rs 133 crore from Rs 43 crore in the last period. For the full year ended March 2021, its net profit amounted to Rs 113 crore, according to Financial Results of the company.
“The Indian diagnostics industry witnessed healthy revenue growth in 2021 with Covid-19 related tests contributing to 20% to 25% revenues. The diagnostics industry saw an expansion of infrastructure, new product development by domestic and international players and increased awareness within customer segments for the same,” Mylab Discovery Solutions Pvt. Ltd. stated in a release.
Driven by the second wave, the footprint of pathology labs especially molecular diagnostics (RT-PCR) and the radiology labs, driven by Computed Tomography (CT)) increased significantly. This infrastructure expansion will drive the growth of diagnostics for the years to come.
“We foresee the hub and spoke model to give way to more decentralized diagnostics, which will enable patients to get their test results faster, without their samples being sent to labs located in distant locations. There will be an increasing adoption of a patient-centric approach by the diagnostics industry,” according to a Mylab Discovery Solutions release.