ICMR Issues New Testing Guidelines For COVID-19

New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Tuesday issued new guidelines for COVID-19 testing regarding RT-PCR and RAT tests.

Though the Centre repeatedly asked states and Union territories to increase the proportion of RT-PCR tests to at least 70 per cent of all COVID-19 tests being conducted, the Indian Council of Medical Research, in its new testing guideline has talked about reducing RT-PCR tests to take the load off the existing laboratories.

According to the new guidelines issued, an “RT-PCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR”. Moreover, recovered individuals who get discharged from hospitals will not require another round of testing, the ICMR said.

Further, the ICMR also seeks to remove mandatory negative RT-PCR test reports for healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel.

“The need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories,” the guidelines read.

However, it added that non-essential travel or inter-state travel of symptomatic individuals should be avoided. Whereas all asymptomatic individuals undertaking essential travel must follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, the guidelines added.

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With a sudden surge in the number of RT-PCR tests and many staff testing positive and thus being relieved from duties, the laboratories are overburdened. It is taking over 72 hours to process one RT-PCR test now.

Given this situation, the ICMR is recommending bringing back the focus on Rapid Antigen Testing for mass detection. RAT may be allowed at all available government and private healthcare facilities, in cities, towns, villages, at offices, schools, colleges, community centres and other vacant spaces. Drive through RAT facilities may also be created, the ICMR said.

Who should take RT-PCR tests then?

According to ICMR, individuals with symptoms identified negative by rapid antigen testing should be linked with RT-PCR test facility.

Writing vaccine status mandatory

The ICMR has made it mandatory to enter the information of vaccination status in the testing form for RAT or RT-PCR. This information is of critical importance, the ICMR said. This comes in the wake of people testing positive after one or both doses of the vaccines.

Suspect case of Covid-19

While getting tested first was recommended before, in the current upsurge of Covid-19 cases, the ICMR says, any individual presenting with fever (with or without cough), headache, sore throat, breathlessness, body ache, the recent loss of taste or smell, fatigue and diarrhea should be considered as a suspect case of Covid-19 unless proven otherwise by confirmation of another etiology.

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