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India needs drive-through Corona testing centres

Bob Rupani  | Updated: April 07, 2020, 08:32 PM IST

Given the herculean task we are faced with in fighting the Coronavirus, India has done fairly well so far. But this battle is by no means over and the situation can worsen anytime. Therefore we must use every tactic and weapon possible to beat COVID-19.

India also needs such drive-through corona test centres

South Korea with its "Drive-Through Testing for Corona" and isolation of positive cases, has set an example that we in India should follow. All experts say India's response has been robust, but almost all of them also add that we need to test more, lots more.

Much of the drive-through testing in South Korea is being done in a very well-organised manner at parking lots

On March 21, I had written about how the auto industry could help combat Corona and mentioned that Korean carmakers like Hyundai and Kia, could possibly assist in bringing "Drive-Through Testing for Corona" to India. Now over two weeks later, I still feel our government should reach out to Hyundai, Kia, LG and Samsung (all have a big presence in our country) and ask them to use their resources and expertise available in Korea, to help set up "Drive-Through Testing for Corona" in India.

Doctors in full protective suits check temperature and other symptoms, without the driver having to get out of the car

The reason drive-through testing is essential is because it's safer, faster and does not require any massive infrastructure. In Korea they have been doing all the drive-through testing in parking lots or on streets blocked for traffic. If a corona positive person goes to a hospital to get checked, then the possibility of the spread of disease through contact while travelling or even in the health centre increases.

A throat swab is taken if the person has symptoms

A nasal swab test is also done

So how does such a drive-through centre work? Well, you drive up in a car to a space marked outside a tent or temporary shed, and stay in the car while medical workers in protective suits, masks and face shields register your personal details, check your temperature and symptoms and if necessary take throat and nasal swabs.

I also read a report that the drivers are advised to hit the recirculation button of their air conditioners so that if they are sick, the pathogens stay in the car, and medical personnel doing the testing avoid getting infected. Korean authorities say that the drivers and occupants (usually members of the same family staying together) go through the entire testing process in a matter of minutes without ever getting out of their cars. The testing is completely free and paid for by the Korean government and reports are sent by SMS and email within 24 hours.

Medical workers check all details while the driver stays in the vehicle

Apparently, the inspiration for such drive-through centres comes from McDonald's and Starbucks drive-through counters and the people who have undergone such tests say that they felt more relaxed and safer getting tested in their own cars.

Drive-through testing is the need of the hour

Collected samples need to be handled with care

It's with this extensive drive-through testing that Korea has managed to contain the Coronavirus to a large extent.

The first drive-through clinic in Korea opened on February 26, and India got its first one on April 6. Yes, as per a News18 report, a private laboratory in Delhi has started a drive-through test for Corona. But in the typical Indian bureaucratic manner, the person needs to have a doctor's prescription for COVID-19 testing along with the doctor's registration number; a government photo-ID such as Aadhaar card; a patient pro forma request form and the make, colour, and registration number of the car also have to be provided. How this matters I don't know, and of course the testing is not free; you need to pay for it.

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