Context: Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has announced that 51 private laboratories [accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL)] will soon be allowed to test for COVID-19 to enhance capacity for diagnosis and detection in addition to the 72 functional laboratories.
- The announcement has come amid the “test, test, test” prescription of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
- According to the ICMR, the “test, test, test” prescription is not for India as community transmission of COVID-19 has not yet occurred.
Spread of COVID-19 in India
- India has witnessed only imported cases of COVID-19 and limited local transmission from imported cases to their immediate contacts.
- Community transmission of the disease has not been documented till now.
- If community transmission is documented, the testing strategy of India needs to undergo changes to evolve into a stage appropriate testing strategy.
Current testing apparatus:
- 72 functional ICMR laboratories in government sector for testing
- 49 more under organisations like Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and Defence Research, Development Organisation (DRDO) will be active by the month end.
- Private NABL accredited laboratories will soon be operationalised.
New guidelines for scaling up testing:
- ICMR has also scaled up its testing operations and has released revised testing guidelines which includes testing norms for health care workers looking after patients with respiratory distress.
- Health care workers managing respiratory distress / Severe Acute Respiratory Illness should be tested when they are symptomatic.
- The revised norms specify that all asymptomatic patients, who have taken international flights in the past 14 days, should get tested as per current protocol if they develop symptoms.
- Also symptomatic people who come in close contact with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases must be tested.
- Appealing all private laboratories to offer COVID-19 diagnosis free of cost.