Mumbai: The Centre has allowed Maharashtra to conduct rapid, mass-scale COVID-19 testing by using blood samples to expedite the detection of coronavirus cases, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Thursday.
The state government will use blood samples instead of swabs in rapid tests through which it can be ascertained "in five minutes" whether the person has developed anti-bodies for the disease or not, he said.
Talking to reporters after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video conference with all chief ministers to discuss ways to check the spread of coronavirus, Tope also informed that around 3.25 lakh migrant labourers are in state-run shelters across Maharashtra.
Besides Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the video conference was also attended by Tope and state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
"The prime minister has informed us that the state can now carry out rapid tests for early detection of coronavirus cases. We will be using blood samples for the early detection of COVID-19 infection," Tope said.
"Mass-scale testing will expedite the state's screening procedure. Within five minutes of collection of blood sample, the government will come to know whether the person has developed some anti-bodies (which indicates presence of virus) or not," he said.
"Earlier the Centre had not allowed mass-scale tests, which is now permitted," he added.
Modi also asked the Maharashtra government to take care of migrant workers in the state in view of the lockdown, he said.
"There are some 3.25 lakh migrant labourers in various state-run facilities. Modi asked us to not only take care of their food, but also provide them TV sets so that they can have some entertainment and do not leave the shelter," the health minister said.
He also said that Modi advised the state government to sanitize containment areas strictly. Containment zones are created around the localities where significant number of infections are found.
"There are 146 such areas where sanitisation will start soon," said the health minister.
The prime minister also asked the state government to convert one hospital in every district into a facility for exclusively treating coronavirus cases, he said.
"Our health department has prepared online training module for Asha (accredited social health activist) workers as well as multi-purpose workers registered with the state who will be trained for treating COVID-19 patients," Tope said.
Around 1,400 persons from Maharashtra attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi -- which later turned out to be a coronavirus hotspot -- and 1,300 of them have been traced, he said.
The state government also requested the Centre to release Rs 16,000 crore of GST rebate which is due, the minister said.