Rising concerns on why only certain cases are being tested.

With an increasing number of COVID-19 cases every day, concerns are being raised on what measures the Indian Council of Medical Research is doing to expand the search for the number of cases?

With the lockdown being slowly lifted in multiple places in India, health authorities are broadening the pool of search for the people infected. Multiple efforts are being taken and recently the Indian Centre for Medical Research (ICMR) issued guidelines for a new testing strategy to track the number of COVID-19 cases. The focus still remains on the imported cases and tracking the people who came in contact showing symptoms.

The new strategy has prompted hospitals to test the hospitalized patients showing COVID-19 symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, and cough. The guidelines further added that people in contact with the patient may be asymptomatic and must be tested between the fifth and 14th day of coming in contact with the patient.

What is ICMR’s approach to testing?

Currently, once the swabs from the nose or throats have been extracted from the infected, the hospitals send the specimen to the government assigned laboratories. Currently, there are only 79 labs approved by the government for COVID-19 testing. The ICMRs approach so far was to track the people showing symptoms, with travel history, to COVID-19 affected places, their contacts who show symptoms, and symptomatic health-care workers managing patients with ‘severe acute respiratory distress’.

Recently after some advice from several experts, ICMR is expanding its search to include all symptomatic health workers, hospitalized patients with severe respiratory illness, and a five and 14-day follow-up with close contacts of confirmed cases, even if they do not show symptoms. This has opened up the need for more diagnostic kits, leading to the government opening a window to several private labs with a supply chain of primers, probes, and reagents to apply for permission to conduct tests.

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