The Centre has asked all states and Union Territories to ensure necessary follow up of its updated advisory on COVID-19 testing strategy, allowing 'testing on-demand', to achieve a higher number of examination with greater flexibility and simplicity.
The 'Advisory on Strategy for COVID-19 Testing in India' (version VI) lists the scope for testing in containment zones, non-containment areas, in hospitals, and also for the first time provides for testing on-demand with simplified modalities to be decided by the states and Union territories.
It also indicates the choice of testing in order of priority for each of the settings.
A letter jointly written by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava to chief secretaries and administrators highlighted that having adequate testing capacities and simplified testing protocol are important components in the management of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The country has so far conducted more than 4.66 crore tests in more than 1,600 laboratories in the country, they said in the letter, adding there has been tremendous progress in upscaling testing infrastructure both in terms of the number of laboratories and daily testing capacity.
"It is a matter of great pride that for the last two days (Wednesday and Thursday), the country has been testing in excess of 11.5 lakh samples every day which is the highest daily testing average anywhere in the world," the letter stated.
With this significant increase in the testing facilities and infrastructure, the need for further refinement in the existing COVID-19 testing strategy to make it more comprehensive has been felt.
After due deliberations by national experts, the National Task Force on COVID-19 has formulated a reviewed and simplified advisory 'Strategy for COVID-19 testing in India'.
"We are sure that with the increased levels of testing and enhanced testing infrastructure, this advisory would further encourage the states to have even higher levels of testing, covering a wide range of persons with greater flexibility and simplification.
"It is requested that this advisory may kindly be disseminated to all concerned for necessary follow up at the earliest," the letter stated.
The updated advisory on COVID-19 testing strategy has also allowed testing on demand for "all individuals undertaking travel to countries or Indian states mandating a negative COVID-19 test at the point of entry".
It also suggested that all the people living in containment zones should be tested by rapid antigen tests, particularly in cities where there has been a widespread transmission of the infection.
The ICMR also stressed that no emergency procedure (including deliveries) should be delayed for lack of tests, and pregnant women should not be referred to another hospital for lack of testing facility.