ICMR issues fresh advisory on COVID-19 testing

ICMR issues fresh advisory on COVID-19 testing

ICMR said that laboratories are facing challenges to meet expected testing targets due to extraordinary case load in the second wave and also because their staff is getting infected with the disease during this period.

"The need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories", the ICMR said in a circular. "We will review the ICMR guidelines and take the testing strategy forward", he said.

Non-essential travel of people with Covid symptoms should be avoided to reduce the risk of infection, the government added.

There will be also be no testing for those who have recovered from Covid, and RT-PCR testing will not be repeated after an individual tests positive using either RAT or RT-PCR.

The ICMR also made it mandatory to enter the information of vaccination status in the testing form for RAT or RT-PCR.

As of today, India has 2,506 molecular testing laboratories, including RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and other platforms. RAT has a short turn-around time of 15-30 minutes and thus offers a huge advantage of quick detection of cases and opportunity to isolate and treat them early for curbing transmission, he said. Around 15 lakh tests can be conducted using the existing testing network, according to the ICMR.

To boost testing using RATs, the research body allowed its use at all government and private medical facilities. Dedicated RAT booths would be allowed in cities, towns and villages to offer testing to people.

Apart from designated test labs, testing facilities can be set up at locations like healthcare facilities, RWA, offices, schools, colleges, community centres and other vacant spaces.

India's health research agency on Tuesday recommended a stop to Covid-19 RT-PCR tests before inter-state travel and asked for 24x7 booths for rapid antigen tests nationwide in efforts to scale up surveillance at a time labs are under intense stress. To improve access and availability of testing, RATs were recommended in India for Covid-19 testing in June 2020.

"Symptomatic individuals identified negative by RAT should be linked with R-TPCR test facility and in the meantime be urged to follow home isolation and treatment", it added. However, the authority a year ago announced in August that it will stop sending RT-PCR test kits in September, leaving the states to procure test kits from their own coffers.

Accordingly, the State's COVID-19 ministerial task force headed by Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan that met on Tuesday gave an administrative nod to the Health Department to procure more RAT kits.

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