Mumbai, which has been struggling to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic, has decided to increase the number of COVID-19 tests conducted in the city each day. The objective is to increase testing to curb the spread of the deadly virus which has infected over 86,000 people in the city. And to serve the purpose, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has allowed people in Mumbai to test themselves for coronavirus infection at designated private laboratories without a doctor's prescription. This would provide respite to people who want to get tested for coronavirus but don't show symptoms.
As of now, a prescription from a government doctor is mandatory to take a COVID-19 test in public or private laboratories in India. Since test, track and treat is the only way to prevent spread of coronavirus infection and save lives, it is important that testing should be made widely available to all symptomatic individuals in every part of the country and contact tracing mechanisms for containment of infection are further strengthened.
Last week, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had issued guidelines, asking states to do away with doctor's mandatory prescription for making an individual eligible to undergo COVID-19 test. "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.
ICMR has also recommended that laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance with the ICMR guidelines.
In a bid to scale up testing facility across the country, ICMR has made following recommendations:
- States and UTs have been advised to make efforts in 'campaign mode' by setting up camps/ using mobiles vans in high incidence areas to collect samples of all symptomatic individuals as well as their contacts, and get those samples tested by using rapid antigen tests.
- In addition to ramping up and facilitating testing, they have also been urged to pay attention to 'contact tracing' as it holds the key to containing the virus.
- The rate for Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing should be fixed in all tests. All COVID-19 tests are conducted through RT-PCR, TrueNat and CBNAAT as recommended by ICMR.
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In an effort to ramp up testing capacity, ICMR has approved a total of 1000 COVID-19 testing labs in both public (730) and private sector (270). This includes RT-PCR labs (557); TrueNat Labs (363) and CBNAAT Labs (80).
By Chitranjan Kumar