Air India bans RT-PCR tests through Point of Care devices, Companies say decision unfair

Manufacturers of TrueNat and CBNAAT (cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test) systems said the decision was taken without any explanation and has put their customers in trouble. TrueNat has reached out to ICMR and Air India to reverse the ...

MUMBAI: Air India, India’s national carrier, has banned Covid-19 tests done with point-of-care systems such as TrueNat and CBNAAT for passengers travelling to the United Arab Emirates, denying many of them boarding.

Manufacturers of TrueNat and CBNAAT (cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test) systems said the decision was taken without any explanation and has put their customers in trouble. TrueNat has reached out to ICMR and Air India to reverse the decision.

The decision comes after some passengers tested positive for Covid-19 upon landing in the UAE while their test reports from India were negative. All UAE-bound passengers must now get tested through the RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction) method, considered the gold standard.


Negative test results will be accepted only from Indian Council of Medical Research, Pure Health and Micro Health labs and the tests should be taken 96 hours before boarding, Air India said in an advisory.

Air India could not be reached for comment.

TrueNat is an indigenously developed, novel, chip-based point-of-care system that decentralises and expands access to RT-PCR testing. With minimal infrastructural requirements and single-testing capability, TrueNat provides results within an hour of sample collection.
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The quick turnaround time and high accuracy of TrueNat RT-PCR makes it particularly useful for travellers who are required to carry Covid-19 negative reports, S Sriram, CEO of TrueNat, told ET.

All other airlines allow passengers to submit TrueNat test results, he said More than 2,500 TrueNat machines are used across India, including in several private labs and hospitals. Over 4 million Covid-19 tests have already been conducted using these machines, Sriram said.

As countries try to open up, testing for Covid-19 before boarding is seen as one way to avoid the mandatory quarantine period. Dubai, Hong Kong and France have put in place such testing requirements for inbound travellers.

“Strange that Air India, in spite of various representations including by ICMR, is refusing to accept these point of care tests and many passengers have been denied boarding at the last minute. All other international airlines don't have a problem,” said a point-of-care testing executive who did not wish to be identified.
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