Indias COVID-19 crisis: ICMR revises RT-PCR testing guidelines to reduce pressure on diagnostic labs

The #ICMR directed that #RTPCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR

Indias COVID-19 crisis: ICMR revises RT-PCR testing guidelines to reduce pressure on diagnostic labs Photo

ICMR also seeks to remove mandatory negative RT-PCR test reports for healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel

Patients being admitted into the ITBP COVID care centre in Delhi. Image courtesy: Twitter/@ITBP_Official

New Delhi: The need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories, recommended an ICMR advisory for COVID-19 testing during the second wave of the pandemic.

The advisory stated that RT-PCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR and that testing is not required for COVID-19 recovered individuals at the time of hospital discharge in accordance with the discharge policy of the Ministry of Health.

The advisory was issued in view of laboratories facing challenges to meet the expected testing target due to extraordinary case load and staff getting infected with COVID-19 .

The apex health research body also recommended upscaling testing using RATs and stated that RAT may be allowed at all available government and private healthcare facilities and setting up dedicated RAT booths in cities, towns and villages to offer testing to people.

The need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories, it said.

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 and that all asymptomatic individuals undertaking essential travel must follow COVID appropriate behaviour, it stated.

An unprecedented upsurge of COVID-19 cases and deaths is currently being witnessed across India. The overall nationwide test positivity rate is above 20 percent, the ICMR said.

Testing-tracking-tracing, isolation and home-based treatment of positive patients is the key measure to curb transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19 .

As of today, India has a total of 2,506 molecular testing laboratories, including RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and other platforms. The total daily national testing capacity is close to 15 lakh tests considering a three-shift operationalization of the existing laboratory network.

"At present, the laboratories are facing challenges to meet the expected testing target due to extraordinary case load and staff getting infected with COVID-19 . In view of this situation, it is imperative to optimize the RT-PCR testing and simultaneously increase the access and availability of testing to all citizens of the country," the apex health research body said.

Further the ICMR said rapid antigen tests (RATs) were recommended in India for COVID-19 testing in June 2020. However, the use of these tests is currently limited to containment zones and healthcare settings.

RAT has a short turnaround 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.

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