Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava wrote to the chief secretaries of all states/UTs saying that “Based on the previous experience, it has been observed that if the number of cases rises above a certain threshold, RTPCR based testing leads to delays in confirming diagnosis due to its turnaround time of about 5-8 hours. Therefore, you are encouraged to increase testing by the widespread use of rapid antigen tests in such specific situations where RTPCR testing poses challenges.”
The health ministry also said, “Any individual presenting with fever with/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.”
All such individuals must be tested, the Centre told the state administrations. “While awaiting the test results, they should be advised to immediately isolate themselves and follow the home isolation guidelines of health ministry.”
Here’s what the Centre told the states in the advisory-
* Early testing of suspect patients and their contacts and isolating them expeditiously are some of the key measures to curb transmission of SARSCOV-2.
* States and UTs are advised to upscale testing for Covid-19 by fully utilizing the existing molecular testing capacity.
* In addition, states and UTs may also expedite procurement of necessary testing equipment and establish BSL-2 laboratory infrastructure from the funds sanctioned by the Centre.
The central government has recommended increasing rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 through the following measures:
* Multiple RAT booths must be set up in identified geographies and operationalized on a 24×7 basis to offer widespread testing and easier access to all citizens.
* RATs may be allowed at government and private health care facilities including all hospitals, dispensaries, nursing homes, clinics, district hospitals, primary health centers etc.
* No accreditation is required for undertaking rapid antigen testing by any healthcare facility.
* In addition to healthcare facilities, states/UTs are encouraged to engage appropriate medical and paramedical staff and to set up and operationalize RAT booths, at convenient locations.
* Use of self-tests/home tests may be encouraged for symptomatic individuals.
* Appropriate public-private partnership models may also be explored to establish innovative and convenient testing centers to augment testing in an expeditious way.
* Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure adherence to physical distancing norms at all testing centers, to minimize the possibility of transmission at testing centers.
* Most of the test kits/products approved by ICMR are now available on the GeM portal and can be easily procured from Gem.
* It is necessary to institute emergency procurement procedures to facilitate the unhindered supply of diagnostic commodities for Covid-19.
* You may appropriately refine the State procurement procedures for emergency procurement from the market to expedite the process.