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ICMR increases random testing for COVID-19 as cases rise

The exercise began on March 15 and each of the 51 Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) laboratories is expected to test 10 such samples every week

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ICMR increases random testing for COVID-19 as cases rise
ICMR laboratories are expected to conduct 10 tests every week

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is intensifying the random sample testing of people who display flu-like symptoms but don't have a travel history to any coronavirus hit countries. This has been done to determine whether community transmission is taking place or not.

According to the Economic Times, the exercise began on March 15 and each of the 51 Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) laboratories is expected to test 10 such samples every week. The ICMR has previously taken 20 samples and tested them at 13 labs across the country to check for community transmission between February 15 and 29.

"Since the number of cases are more, we are more aggressive now," said Nivedita Gupta, scientist, epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR to The Economic Times.. "We thought that in order to rule out community transmission, let's keep on checking these samples also for the presence for Covid-19," told Gupta.

According to The Economic Times, this move by the ICMR comes at a time when reports from other countries suggested that the spread of coronavirus by people who are mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic may be the reason behind the transmission for the disease.

"The testing strategy will completely change if we find any positive case in these random samples that we plan to test," Gupta said. According to ICMR director general Balram Bhargava to the Economic Times. "The testing protocol is a moving target...The testing strategy will be revised in a week's time if it's needed to and having looked at the circumstances," added Bhargava.

The ICMR does not want to conduct blanket checks. "First of all, we don't want to do any indiscriminate testing as now everybody is asking for a test, so somewhere you will have to rationalize the test," Nivedita Gupta said

According to Bhargava, only those people who have a travel history to coronavirus-hit countries and who have come in contact with confirmed positive patients need to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days. Bhargava said. "During those 14 days, if he becomes symptomatic, he should be laboratory tested. If the person is asymptomatic, he doesn't need to be tested."

According to Bhargava, India can only conduct 10,00 tests a day. The ICMR laboratories have around 100,000 testing kits and an additional 200,000 have already been ordered, according to RR Gangakhedhkar, ICMR Chief Epidemiologist.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has seen a sharp increase in the last two weeks. As of Monday morning, the official count was 110.

Also Read: Coronavirus outbreak LIVE updates: Cases rise to 110; another batch from Iran reaches India

Also Read: Coronavirus outbreak: PM Modi proposes SAARC emergency fund to fight COVID-19; offers to contribute $10 million

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