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NEW DELHI : The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has prepared a plan to increase India’s covid-19 testing capacity to at least 100,000 tests a day to meet the spurt in demand in case the epidemic worsens. Till 9 pm of Monday, India had reported 4,135 confirmed cases after testing 1.01 lakh samples. As many as 11,432 of these were tested on Monday, of which 311 were positive.

Under the new plan, the ICMR will work round the clock at its existing laboratories to test more samples.

“Our current capacity is of roughly 13,000 tests per day. If we scale it up now in two shifts, we can easily do over 25,000 tests per day. We are utilizing all our resources to increase this testing capacity and people should not worry," said Dr Raman R. Gangakhedkar, head scientist, ICMR.

However, additional tests will require more staffers and the medical research body has begun coordinating with state governments to increase the head count. More people will be required for data entry, re-deploying automated and manual RT-PCR machines and optimizing in-lab processes, such as RNA extraction, to reduce the turnaround time between sample receipt and testing, it said. RT-PCR stands for Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction kits.

The ICMR has already approved as many as 200 government and private labs for covid-19 testing through RT-PCR machines and is in the process of identifying more research institutes and medical colleges, which can be included in the network. The laboratories currently have a capacity of 18,000 tests a day.

In addition, two high throughput machines Cobass6800 have been made functional, which can test 1,400 samples at a time, compared to RT-PCR machines which take 90 samples.

“There is a constant vigil on the national testing strategy in line with the current trend of the outbreak. RT-PCR is the gold standard testing method for SARS- CoV-2 diagnosis and is in place in all the laboratories for diagnosing the disease," an ICMR official said.

Around 1 million RT-PCR kits have been procured and seven depots have been set up to ensure uninterrupted supply of reagents in all labs.

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