New Delhi: With cases of COVID-19 swelling to 84 in India along with two casualties due to the virus on Friday, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) expanded its network of Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDLs) equipped to test COVID-19 from 51 to 65.
ICMR is also the testing agency for the virus. The secondary test for reconfirmation of the virus which was earlier conducted only in National Institute of Virology (NIV) has also been expanded to 31 laboratories, the ICMR said on Friday.
In New Delhi, there are currently three laboratories testing for COVID-19 which are based at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) (not under VRDL network), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and Lady Hardinge Medical College and hospital .
The testing laboratories have recently also been approved in Srinagar, Chandigarh, Jodhpur, Patna, Agartala, Dibrugarh, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Pondicherry, Jamnagar, Varanasi, Amritsar and Agartala.
“We have a total network of over 106 laboratories across the country. As the requirement is increasing with the evolving situation of COVID-19, we are identifying more laboratories from this network. In case of any signs or symptoms like fever, dry cough, difficulty in breathing etc. one should visit a doctor or call the Ministry of health and family welfare’s 24X7 Helpline - 011-23978046. They should always remember to wear a mask before stepping out to see the doctor," said senior official at the ICMR.
“If the person is very sick, the doctors and paramedical staff can also come to his/her home as well and collect the sample. They can also go to a designated government hospital for giving sample," the official said.
Till date ICMR has tested more than 6500 samples of 5900 individuals, out of which 78 cases have been tested positive for the virus. Routine confirmation of suspected cases is based on detection of unique sequences of virus RNA with nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT), such as real time reverse transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR). If a negative result is obtained from a patient with a high index of suspicion for COVID-19 virus infection, another sample is taken from his lower respiratory tract. Health officials usually take swab from the upper-respiratory tract or sputum for the test. Though respiratory samples have the greatest yield, the virus can also be detected in other specimens, including stool and blood.
“ICMR is equipped to handle more volumes of samples if the need arises. Our steps will enable India to expedite detection of the virus and will help in effective management. People should not panic, but take precautionary measures. Strong systems and processes are in place to deal with COVID-19 and the Ministry is constantly monitoring the situation," Professor Balram Bhargava, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General, ICMR, said.
“ICMR has been constantly in a vigil mode and our laboratories have enough capacity to test. We will be issuing advisories and revising guidelines for testing as and when necessary," he said.