Home / News / India /  COVID-19: All doctors can recommend testing, ICMR tells states

The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has suggested the states to allow all medical practitioners including "private doctors to prescribe COVID-19 test to anyone fulfilling the criteria for testing". The aim is to increase the number of testing to curb the virus spread. "In view of the increased load on government healthcare facilities, this mandatory requirement may at times pose an impediment for an individual to get tested and to lead to unnecessary delays," the Health Secretary Preeti Sudan and ICMR director general Dr Balram Bhargava wrote in a letter to the states and union territories.

In some states, a prescription from a government doctor is necessary to take a COVID-19 test in any laboratories in India. The medical body also recommended that "laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance with the ICMR guidelines".

The test-track-treat is the only way to detect and prevent the COVID-19 in the country. So Bhargava suggested all the states to increase the testing facility. The medical body has approved 761 public laboratories and 288 private laboratories for COVID-19 testing. "The capacity utilisation of private laboratories for COVID-19 is grossly sub-optimal," Bhargava mentioned. They advised the states to ensure full utilisation of all COVID-19 testing laboratories.

To ramp up testing facility in the country, Bhargava advised

1) States should set camps or use mobile vans to collect samples from high density areas. The sample from all the symptomatic individuals and their contacts should be tested. ICMR suggested antigen testing for containment areas. Then, the treatment of COVID-19 patients should be started immediately. Those COVID-19 negative patients should go for RT-PCR tests.

2) The rate for RT-PCR testing should be fixed in all tests.

3) It should be mandatory for all labs to upload the testing data on the ICMR databases as well as report to state and district authorities for surveillance and contact tracing.

ICMR's Bhargava also suggested the states to focus on contact tracing as it holds the key to contain the virus. "It has been observed that in some states, delineation of containment zones and contact tracing has not been undertaken with rigour and meticulousness that is required," Bhargava observed.

Bhargava suggested using antigen testing for early detection of COVID-19 infection. The rapid antigen tests show results in 30 minutes and can "can be interpreted with a naked eye". The states can use it as a "point-of-care test in containment zones as well as hospital."

The ICMR earlier advised to use antigen kits along with the gold standard RT-PCR test. Suspected individuals who test negative for COVID-19 by rapid antigen test should be tested by RT-PCR to rule out the infection. While the positive test results should be considered as true positive and does not need reconfirmation by RT-PCR test, said the apex body.

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