Focus on testing: states urged to ensure full capacity utilization of all testing laboratories
GN Bureau | July 2, 2020
Even as Unlock enters the second phase, the number of Covid-19 infections continues to rise to record levels and India remains No 4 in the worldwide list, yet there is glimmer of hope: its recovery rate is also rising in tandem.
There are 1,27,864 recovered cases more than the active Covid-19 cases, as on Wednesday, and this has resulted in the recovery rate further increasing to 59.43%. In the 24 hours to Wednesday afternoon, 13,157 Covid-19 patients were cured, taking the cumulative figure to 3,47,978.
A health ministry release on Wednesday gave credit to “the coordinated steps taken by the government of India along with states/UTs for prevention, containment and management of Covid-19”.
Currently, there are 2,20,114 active cases and all are under medical supervision.
The testing lab network in the country has been further strengthened. With 764 labs in the government sector and 292 private labs, there are as many as 1,056 labs in the country.
There has been a steady rise in the samples tested every day. In the 24 hours to Wednesday afternoon, 2,17,931 samples were tested, taking the cumulative number of samples tested to 88,26,585.
To remove all impediments in testing, Preeti Sudan, health secretary, and Dr Balram Bhargava, DG (ICMR), has urged the states and union territories (UTs) 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.
As the capacity utilization of the testing labs, particularly the ones in private sector, is grossly sub-optimal in some states/ UTs, they have been advised to take all possible steps to ensure full capacity utilization of all Covid-19 testing laboratories.
States/UTs have been 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, an official release said.
ICMR has strongly recommended that laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance to the ICMR Guidelines and state authorities must not restrict an individual from getting tested, as early testing will help in containing the virus and saving lives. While RT-PCR is the gold standard for diagnosis of Covid-19, ICMR has recently approved the use of a point-of-care Rapid Antigen Test for early detection of Covid-19. The test is quick, simple, safe and can be used as a point-of-care test in containment zones as well as hospitals, as per criteria specified by ICMR for testing. More such kits are being validated by ICMR to increase the available options to the citizens. ICMR has so far approved a total of 1,056 laboratories for Covid-19 testing. Of this, 764 labs are in public sector and 292 are in the private sector.
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 tests. The positive individuals should be treated according to the treatment protocol and the negative ones should be tested for RT-PCR. Also, the rate for RT-PCR test by private labs should be finalized by the States/UTs. They have been further advised to make it mandatory for all labs to upload the testing data on the ICMR database as well as report to state/ district/ city authorities for surveillance and contact tracing.
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. States have also been asked to maintain strict vigil and continue to make all possible efforts for effective management of Covid-19.
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