With Novel Coronavirus showing no signs of disappearing yet, testing is looked upon as among the best ways to tackle the deadly menace.

Story by Deven Lad
It is very warm and dry. The weather in Pune is typical of summers in this part of India. In a typical middle-class locality in the city an usual looking bus roll downs the road and comes to a halt by the side of the road. It has ‘Aarya’ written at the front; on the large front glass. The sides have stickers from the top to the bottom, and from the front to the rear. They announce in no uncertain terms that this is a Covid-19 test bus. With ‘Krsnaa Diagnostics’ written in bold, it does not take long to understand that this bus has rolled into the locality to power a campaign to test the people here for the deadly viral infection, thousands of kilometers away from where it is known to have originated in China.

One of the three such buses that were perhaps leased from Aarya Trans Solutions, a Pune-based company that specialises in bus operations for segments like staff, school, tourist, etc., the bus, measuring 12 m in length, is built on the Tata LPO 1618 chassis. Designed for mass screening, which, according to sources, would account for over five million tests a month, based on symptoms such as fever, oxygen levels and x-rays, the bus has a front single entry door. A person, after being registered on the desk manned by personnels located adjacent to the bus is escorted into the bus by a PPE clad technician for collection of swab samples and for carrying out other tests. Sans any seats, the passenger compartment of the bus has been suitably modified to ensure that the samples are collected as per the prescribed norms and the staff manning the mobile test centre is not exposed to the risk of catching the infection.

Said to have reduced the test cost for Covid-19 by up to 80 per cent, the test bus is an initiative of the IIT Alumni Council. Designed and developed to help the Government of Maharashtra to fight the tide of Novel Coronavirus in the state by complementing its other measures, the test bus (there are three of them) has a RT-PCR swab collection facility. Taking a little over a week to modify the Covid-19 test bus from a conventional bus with an ability to carry roughly 35 to 40 passengers, the 180 hp front-engine machine is based on Kodoy technology stack. Mentioned Ravi Sharma, President, IIT Alumni Council, that the bus employs indigenous technology and is the first of its kind to have an onboard genetic testing facility, AI-based teleradiography and contactless sample collection facility. Worked upon by a team of carpenters, fitters and electricians among others, the Covid-19 test bus, according to Adarsh Karnawat, Director, Krsnaa Diagnostics, has been well-designed and executed to perform the task it is intended to. “It is designed and developed to help effectively isolate high-risk suspects,” he added.

Pressed into service on May 01, 2020, the indigenous Kodoy technology architecture of the bus is about sample selection and telemedicine. It is also about algorithm-based pooled genetic testing and indigenous mega labs capable of up to five million tests per month per lab. Capable of being operated in adverse climate conditions, the test bus has 384 sq. ft. of lab space onboard. Supporting the ability to collect samples to carry 10 to 15 tests per hour are the advanced digital x-ray, blood test and swab collection technologies. Having two compartments for the staff and suspected patients, according to Pallavi Jain, Managing Director, Krsnaa Diagnostics, the bus is set to get wireless robotic tele-operated ultrasound lung probe as well as nanopore gene sequencer in the next phase of development. Providing an insight into the working of the testing process as far as the test-bus concept goes, Jain averred, “Each patient undergoes x-ray scanning, the results of which are had in 20 minutes. If any patches of pneumonia or Covid-19 are detected, the concerned health officer is informed immediately. The person is then advised to take the swab test. Till the results are had, the person is asked to self-home quarantine.”

While information of the next phase is not out yet, the Covid-19 test bus (actually three of them) has caught the fancy of other states fighting a similar battle as the State of Maharashtra. If the usability of the three test buses could be gauged against the population density of some of the cities in Maharashtra as compared to many other states in India, the Government of Delhi is known to have introduced a test bus laced with artificial intelligence technology as well. It is said to be capable of rapid testing, and is claimed to have an onboard thermal testing facility, separate air-tight cabins for doctors and technicians, and facilities for contactless testing of patients. Known to have been structured on an air-conditioned Tata 1512 bus chassis provided by CRPF, the Covid-19 test bus, according to sources, has a separate ambulance zone to evacuate critical patients and separate entry gates for doctors and patients. Capable of testing 700 to 800 patients per day, the Covid-19 test bus is also complemented by smaller testing vans built on the Tata Ace platform. These vehicles, according to the sources, are helping the Delhi Government to reach out to communities in densely populated areas of the state.

At Hyderabad, a startup called Vera Healthcare has launched a Covid-19 bus with ‘Intelligent Monitoring Analysis Service Quarantine’( iMASQ). It is designed to carry doctors and nurses onboard. Travelling to various locations in the city and in other areas of the state, the bus provides medication stock, has a collection facility, and provides remote consultation as well in-house quarantine berth with a ventilator. Claimed to cover 3000 to 10,000 houses within a three km radius each day, the bus, according to Vera Healthcare sources, is leveraging artificial intelligence technologies to fight the menace of deadly Novel Coronavirus.

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