Covid-19 sample testing facilities have dramatically improved in Agra, with latest machines and more trained manpower, as also the response mechanism to the pandemic, which is a signs of positivity being spread. The district's health force, comprising doctors, para medics, pharmacists and lab technicians, is continuously learning and the administration is taking new initiatives everyday in a bid to check the spread of the virus. IMA Secretary Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi told IANS that the combined capacity of the SN Medical College and the JALMA centre of the ICMR, near the Taj Mahal, was now over 1,500 daily. The availability of beds at the Covid hospital in the medical college has also increased to over 200. "With experience we are improving. However, the data-management system has to be streamlined." Chturvedi said the IMA will soon start work on a dedicated Covid hospital. The private hospitals were being geared up to admit corona patients and offer prompt treatment. Two private laboratories have been permitted by the health department to test samples. The overall picture is definitely better in terms of preparedness today, compared to what it was in April and May." Samples from neighbouring districts are tested in Agra. Serious cases from the whole area are also referred to the Covid hospital at the SN Medical College, Chaturvedi added. The Agra medical college is considered a mother institution more than a century old, which has provided a stream of talented doctors who were instrumental in the opening of new medical colleges and universities all over India. While the health officials and administrative heads paint a rosy picture of the state of pandemic preparedness, the general public does not share this optimism. Even though adequate testing facilities exist to cope with the challenges, the number of complainants and dissatisfied patients continues to grow each day. The health department officials have been accused of laxity and reluctance in collecting samples. Insiders allege that the number of samples being tested on a daily basis is pathetically low and there is always a delay of three to four days, though the government officials vehemently deny this charge. "Patients referred by private hospitals are not being tested, rather doctors discourage the victims. The hapless victims are running from pillar to post and there is no one around to guide the harassed patients. Many have suffered because of the delay in testing," an elderly villager said at the district hospital. The total number of samples collected for testing so far is 35,018. The private laboratories are charging exorbitant rates, according to many patients, though the state government has already announced a tariff plan. "Lack of clarity and a prompt response mechanism or a grievances redressal system, have collectively compounded the problem," lamented social activist Shravan Kumar Singh. "The criminalisation of Covid-19 must stop. A humane approach is needed. The officials including the police treat Covid-19 patients and their family members as criminals, and after recovery if a patient returns, he is kind of stigmatised. When are we going to learn," wondered senior advocate Vivek Sarabhoy, who runs a Covid help group in Agra, providing prompt backup support from food to blood plasma. Associated with this group the Robin Hood Army volunteers are feeding hundreds daily and providing packed rations to distressed families. Fresh 15 cases have taken Agra's tally to 1,501, with 94 deaths, health authority data showed. The number of ative cases in 85 containment zones is 162. The recovery rate is 82.94 per cent with 1,254 discharged after recovery. Mathura reported 29, Kasganj 20, Mainpuri 13, Firozabad five and Etah two cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.