ICMR issues fresh Covid-19 testing guidelines, recommends ramping up of ‘testing on demand’

It also said that all asymptomatic health workers and frontline workers should also be tested.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has in its latest advisory advised all the state governments to allow Covid-19 “testing on demand” for people who want to get tested for Coronavirus. The advisory named ‘Advisory on Strategy for COVID-19 Testing in India’ was released by the ICMR on Friday, however, the apex body left it to the discretion of state governments to devise a way to allow testing on demand rather than issuing any definite instructions, PTI reported. The ICMR also said that people who have planned to travel to countries and states which are demanding Covid-19 negative reports at the entry points should also be allowed to get tested under the ‘testing on demand’ facility. The advisory also noted that the state government should also try to reduce and simplify the modalities for testing on demand so that more people who want to get tested for Coronairus can get tested.

The ICMR also advised the state governments to demarcate the whole testing process into four parts— routine surveillance in containment zones, routine surveillance in non-containment zones, hospital settings and testing on demand. Among other salient guidelines, the ICMR said that ideally 100 per cent of the residents of a containment zone should be tested by the rapid antigen tests to curb the spread of the virus. It also said that even asymptomatic residents in containment zones who are aged above 65 years or suffering from comorbidities should be brought under the net of testing. Similar guidelines were issued for individuals above 65 years of age who had come in direct contact with a confirmed Coronavirus patient at home or working space. It also said that all asymptomatic health workers and frontline workers should also be tested.

Under the head ‘hospital settings’, the ICMR has advised states to ensure that no emergency procedure, including child deliveries, should be delayed on account of a lack of testing facilities. Adequate testing of high-risk patients (both symptomatic and asymptomatic), including senior citizens and those with comorbidities, should be undertaken at the hospital, the guidelines said. The ICMR also listed measures which pregnant women who have tested positive for Coronavirus should undertake before and after their delivery.

As far as the choice of Covid-19 testing method is concerned, the ICMR suggested that the first priority of the authorities should be rapid antigen tests followed by the RT-PCR test and other methods in the containment as well as non-containment areas. On the other hand, for hospital settings, the ICMR approved of the RT-PCR based test followed by rapid antigen tests. Advocating better utilisation of the testing kits, the ICMR guidelines suggest that once a person has been confirmed positive by any of the testing methods, no further tests should be conducted to re-confirm the result. However, the guidelines mentioned that if a patient is exhibiting symptoms of the disease even after testing negative in one test, then repeated tests should be conducted. All regular patients going for non-emergency and elective surgical operations have also been advised to remain in strict home quarantine for at least 15 days before their surgery.

It is pertinent to note that despite the ICMR issuing guidelines for adequate and uniform testing procedure throughout the country, states are free to formulate their own testing procedures according to their capacity and infrastructure.

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