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ICMR Issues New Testing Guidelines for COVID-19

The Indian Council of Medical Research issued a new set of guidelines on Tuesday insisting on the reduction of RT-PCR tests so as to relieve the burdened laboratories. Despite repeated directions by the Centre, insisting States and Union territories to increase the proportion of    RT-PCR tests to at least 70% of all the COVID-19 tests being conducted, the ICMR issued a fresh set of testing guidelines.

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Stating that at the national level, the 2,506 molecular testing laboratories in India including RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and so on can conduct about 15 lakh tests, the ICMR added that the sudden surge in the number of RT-PCR tests, staff testing positive thereby not being able to work and other allied issues have thus left laboratories overburdened, taking over 72 hours to process one RT-PCR test. 

As a result, the ICMR has suggested focussing on Rapid Antigen Testing for mass detection with the creation of drive through RAT facilities. This test will be made available at all government and private healthcare setups, in rural as well as urban spaces, schools, colleges, community centres and other vacant spaces.  

As per the recommendations of the ICMR, the RT-PCR test is not needed if:

  • A person has tested positive for COVID-19 by Rapid Antigen Test.
  • A person has once tested positive by RT-PCR test. 
  • A person has undergone 10 days of home isolation and has not experienced fever for the past 3 days. 
  • During the time of hospital discharge. 
  • A person is healthy and undertaking interstate domestic travel. Though this requirement has been made mandatory by States, the ICMR suggests removal to reduce the load on laboratories. 

However, individuals with symptoms who have been tested negative by Rapid Antigen Testing must undergo the RT-PCR test. Making it mandatory for individuals to enter the vaccination status in the testing form of RT-PCR or RAT, the ICMR stated that this information is very significant as there have been individuals who have tested positive after one or both doses of the vaccines.

As per the new guidelines, any individual with fever (with or without cough), headache, sore throat, breathlessness, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea and body ache must be considered a suspect case of COVID-19 unless proven otherwise by another test or diagnosis.

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