The new Omicron variant of COVID has been making waves globally. Closer home in India, the number of Omicron cases is gradually on the rise, which means that the number of tests is likely to rise as well. To understand what this means for the diagnostics space, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Om Manchanda, Managing Director, Dr Lal Pathlabs, and Ameera Shah, Promoter & Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare.
On the rise in the number of tests, Manchanda believes that it is mainly attributable to travel. He said, “Whatever testing rise is going up is mainly due to travel. We saw bottoming out in testing in November; there is a slight uptick on that but it’s not that significant.”
Meanwhile, Shah believes that it is just a matter of time before the number of cases picks up as the new variant is said to be more transmissible. She said, “Currently, positively, levels are not very high, numbers are not very high but it’s a matter of time. January is when we will see it spreading into India.”
On tests, Manchanda pointed out that they don't detect variants, they simply mention if the patient is COVD positive or not. He said, “The test that we conduct only tells whether one is positive for COVID or not. It doesn’t tell which variant it is.”
Shah fears that this could result in a lot of false negatives. She believes superior testing kits will be required to detect variants. She said, “The bigger challenge that we are seeing is that not all chemicals and kits pick up the S-gene which is required to pick up Omicron. Therefore, we may still continue getting false negatives, as a community, unless more labs start adopting better quality kits.”
The Maharashtra government recently ordered a price cut in the RT-PCR tests. When asked how those would be impacting margins, Shah said that the price caps make it unviable. She said, “At this point in time we are not thinking so much about margins. We are just thinking more about the health of people and hoping that this infection doesn’t go crazy in India. As healthcare providers, we are here to first serve and support.”
For the entire discussion, watch the video.