The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), on Tuesday, published new guidelines on testing during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the increased pressure on laboratories. The propositions advise reducing and repeating RT-PCR tests on those who have tested positive.
The necessity for RT-PCR test on healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be entirely removed to lessen the load on laboratories.
RT-PCR test should not be repeated on any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR. Testing is not required once a COVID-19 patient has recovered and is discharged from the hospital.
Non-essential travel and interstate travel of symptomatic individuals (COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms) should be essentially avoided to reduce the risk of infection.
ICMR proposed that states set up mobile testing systems. The advisory also said RAT should be upscaled to meet the demand and that states should decide on the payment modalities
Testing booths may be set up at multiple locations including healthcare facilities, RWA offices, schools, colleges, community centres and other available vacant spaces. These booths should be operational on a 24x7 basis to improve access and availability of testing. Drive-through RAT testing facilities may be created at convenient locations as identified by the local administration.
The ICMR explained India had 2,506 molecular testing laboratories with the daily capacity of “close to 15 lakh tests”. “At present, the laboratories are facing challenges to meet the expected testing target due to extraordinary caseload and staff getting infected with COVID-19,” the ICMR said.
The advisory informed all those exhibiting symptoms of fever with or without cough, headache, sore throat, breathlessness, body ache, the recent loss of taste or smell, fatigue and diarrhoea during the current wave of COVID-19 should be treated as suspected cases of COVID-19 unless proven otherwise.
All states have been instructed to ensure full utilisation of the available RT-PCR testing capability, both in public and private laboratories.