May 27, 2021
Balram Bhargava, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) director-general, said there is no need for healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel to take RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests for COVID-19 detection.
He said that the government is looking to rationalise RT-PCR tests and increase rapid antigen testing (RAT) testing for early detection, home care, and isolation.
At the press conference, the ICMR chief said that the RT-PCR test must not be repeated in individuals who once tested positive after either RT-PCR or rapid antigen tests. He added that no testing is required for individuals who have recovered at the time of discharge and that there is no need for healthy individuals undertaking interstate travel to take RT-PCR tests.
Bhargava said that symptomatic individuals must avoid any non-essential travel and interstate travel. He added that all asymptomatic individuals who undertake essential travel are required to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Bhargava also said that the government is deploying testing laboratories. With the second wave of the coronavirus, laboratories are needed to aggressively increase rapid antigen testing in rural and hard-to-reach areas for faster isolation. He added that rapid antigen testing is allowed at all the government and private healthcare facilities in India, for which no accreditation is required.
The ICMR chief said that the government is looking to increase rapid antigen testing for the detection of COVID-19. He has advised setting up multiple 24X7 rapid antigen testing booths in cities, towns, and villages. He said that the rapid antigen testing booths are to be set up with the community in colleges, schools, RWA offices, community centres, etc. He advised that public-private partnership models must be encouraged to establish convenient and innovative testing centres.
Bhargava said that rapid antigen testing must be conducted in accordance with the rapid antigen testing algorithm defined by ICMR. Also, all RT-PCR and rapid antigen test results must be uploaded on the ICMR portal. He added that all rapid antigen and RT-PCR testing centres must ensure social distancing norms.
Bhargava said that people with fever, headache, cough, breathlessness, sore throat, body ache, fatigue, diarrhoea, or recent loss of taste or smell must be tested immediately and isolated while awaiting the test results.
The testing performance has been maintained despite the shortage of staff. The ICMR chief said India is conducting 18 to 20 lakh COVID-19 tests per day despite the infection among laboratory staff. Bhargava said that the national COVID-19 positivity rate is about 21%. About 42% of the districts are reporting a positivity rate better than the national average.
The ICMR chief said that in our laboratories, the capacity for RT-PCR testing is about 16 lakh per day, and the same for rapid antigen testing is about 17 lakh per day. In April and May, Bhargava said that, on average, a total of 16 to 20 lakh RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests were performed per day. Bhargava added that on April 30, 2021, India conducted 19,45,299 COVID-19 tests—the highest done by any country ever.
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