Punjab; 62-year-old,State Cabinet Minister for Jails and Cooperation Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa was tested positive for Covid by a government testing laboratory while two consequent tests, one at a private lab and another at PGIMER Chandigarh reported him negative, all within three days.Randhawa, who had given his initial sample on February 25 at MLA Hostel, Chandigarh, as part of the compulsory examination for MLAs before the Vidhan Sabha session, was declared Covid-positive as per test results received from the government laboratory at Punjab Biotechnology Incubator, Mohali, on February 26.
Speaking to the press, Randhawa said he was astounded to recognize his ‘positive’ test report, after which he again got himself examined from a private lab Atulaya Healthcare Private Limited, Chandigarh on February 27. The test report got the same day, was ‘negative’.
Randhawa said he was remarkably shaken by the “contradictory results” from the government and private laboratories. Hence, to validate his Covid state, he went for one final test. On the same day (February 27), he gave his specimen for the RT-PCR test at PGIMER Chandigarh. The result from PGIMER got on Sunday informed him ‘negative’.Randhawa had tested positive for Covid-19 in August last year. “I was more shocked to see my ‘positive’ result because I had tested positive five months back and it was nearly impossible to test ‘positive’ again in such a short period as I must have developed antibodies. I sent all three reports to my Cabinet colleague Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and asked what was happening. He too was shocked,” said Randhawa.
The minister said that his doctors had also informed him that it was not probable to test positive again so soon. “It was on the insistence of my doctors that I decided to get tested again,” he added. He also queried why the ‘positive’ test report he got from the government lab was “handwritten” in front of his name, while the results of others on the record were “typed”. “Ehdi ni samaj aay…(I did not get this),” he said.
Terming it a “serious lapse” on the part of the government testing lab, Randhawa said that while he did bring up the concern with the health minister, he did not explain it with his O P Soni, minister of medical education and research, under whose department Covid testing is carried.
“I don’t know how it all happened. It has been a complete mess. I never had any symptoms. Just five months back, I had tested positive and I have no health issues. I got tested only because I had to attend the Vidhan Sabha session. It is a very serious lapse…There are so many side effects of the medicines that you take for Covid-19…,” said Randhawa.“Since this morning it has been a big issue. Why have his (Soni’s) department officials not informed him yet? He must know how such a big lapse happened…I spoke to Sidhu, not Soni. It is his department (Soni’s) and he should have contacted me after this goof-up, not vice-versa,” said Randhawa.
D K Tiwari, principal secretary of medical education and research, said they were reviewing if there was an error in testing at the government laboratory. “Randhawa’s sample was tested with all other samples (taken from MLA Hostel) at Punjab Biotechnology Incubator Laboratory and the result was ‘positive’. It is possible to test negative in the next 1-2 days if a person is on the path to recovery and the viral load is very low. There is something called ‘CT value’ and if it is high, it means viral load was low and vice-versa. In Randhawa’s case, it was very high, which means his viral load was very low. But still, to ensure that there is no lapse in the government lab’s testing system, we are rechecking the entire chain of his sample’s testing…It is being checked if there was any lapse on our part…” Tiwari said,
Questioned about Randhawa’s ‘positive’ result being ‘handwritten’, Tiwari said, “In fact, it is a thing of appreciation that instead of typing it in a hurry without cross-checking, the result was carefully handwritten after proper verification…” Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that while his department only obtains the samples, the trial is taken care of by his colleague O P Soni’s department.