The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Tuesday (March 17) said while revising the testing protocols for coronavirus, sampling in private labs has been made available.
ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said that there are 72 functional labs of the apex medical body conducting tests and another 49 private NABL-accredited labs will soon be operational.
“We have 72 functional ICMR laboratories in government sector for testing and 49 more will be active by the month end,” he said, adding that India is in stage 2 or local transmission of the COVID-19.
According to the ICMR, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 126, after adding the 12 new cases, of which there were three deaths in Delhi, Karnataka, and Maharashtra each and about 13 patients have recovered.
He also appealed to all private laboratories to offer COVID-19 diagnosis free of cost.
“All asymptomatic patients who have taken international flights in the past 14 days should get tested as per current protocol if they develop symptoms,” he said.
He also said that symptomatic people who come in close contact with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases must be tested, adding and all healthcare workers managing respiratory condition of patients should be tested too if symptomatic.
During the press conference, the director-general also mentioned that to keep community transmission about 1000 sample checks will be done per week, however, private testing will be done only with the referral of a doctor.
He also said that people who want to get the test done do not have to visit the hospital or the testing centres. “People can just call on the helpline numbers given by the Ministry of Health and officials will collect samples of people for testing from their homes,” he said.
ICMR was approached by several private players who want to contribute and talks are on with 51 National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited private laboratories.
“There are four stages and the third stage is community transmission which we hope we shouldn’t have. It would depend on how strongly we close our international borders, in terms of which government has taken very proactive steps. But can’t say that community transmission won’t happen,” Bhargava added.
“Indiscriminate testing criteria has been added in the revised protocols and one million testing kits have been ordered along with more test centres to be added by the end of this week,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)