Government removes Impediments in COVID-19 Testing; Urges States to Ramp up Testing

Preeti Sudan, Health Secretary and Dr. Balram Bhargava, DG (ICMR) urged the States/UTs yesterday to take immediate steps to facilitate and ramp up testing. They have reiterated that ‘test-track-treat’ is the key strategy for early detection and containment of the pandemic. Pointing out that in some States/ UTs, the capacity utilization of the testing labs, particularly the ones in private sector, is grossly sub-optimal, they are also advised to facilitate testing at the earliest by enabling all qualified medical practitioners, including private practitioners, to prescribe COVID test to any individual fulfilling the criteria for testing as per ICMR guidelines. While RT-PCR is the gold standard for diagnosis of COVlD-19, ICMR has recently approved the use of a point-of-care Rapid Antigen Test for early detection of COVID-19.In order to facilitate testing, States/UTs have also 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 test. In addition to ramping up and facilitating testing, States/UTs have also been urged to pay attention to 'contact tracing' as it holds the key to containing the virus.

The total number of people being tested for COVID-19 tests in the country will soon touch one crore. This has been possible due to removal of all bottlenecks by Government of India. Various steps taken by the Central Government have paved the way for enhanced testing for COVID-19. As on date, 90, 56,173 tests have been conducted through a diagnostic testing network which is fast expanding. There are now 1065 testing labs in the country comprising 768 in the public sector and 297 private labs. The per day testing capacity is also fast growing. Yesterday, as many as 2, 29,588 people got tested for COVID-19.

Through a significant step announced by the Central Government, COVID-19 testing can now be done on the prescription of any registered practitioner, and not exclusively a Government doctor. The Centre has strongly advised States/UTs to take immediate steps to facilitate testing at the earliest by enabling all qualified medical practitioners, including private practitioners, to prescribe COVID test to any individual fulfilling the criteria for testing as per ICMR guidelines.