The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has asked the states to allow laboratories to test symptomatic individuals for COVID-19 infection. A prescription from a doctor should not be mandatory to undergo a COVID-19 test, the medical body believed. “In view of the increased load on government healthcare facilities, this mandatory requirement may at times pose an impediment for an individual to get tested and to lead to unnecessary delays,” the Health Secretary Preeti Sudan and ICMR director general Dr Balram Bhargava wrote in a letter to the states and union territories.

At present, a prescription from a government doctor is necessary to take a COVID-19 test in any laboratories in India. The medical body recommended that “laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance with the ICMR guidelines”. At the same time, the state should allow all the medical practitioners including private doctors to prescribe COVID-19 test to anyone fulfilling the criteria for testing, I said.

The test-track-treat is the only way to detect and prevent the COVID-19 in the country. So ICMR suggested all the states to increase the testing facility. The medical body has approved 761 public laboratories and 288 private laboratories for COVID-19 testing. “The capacity utilisation of private laboratories for COVID-19 is grossly sub-optimal,” ICMR mentioned. They advised the states to ensure full utilisation of all COVID-19 testing laboratories.

To ramp up testing facility in the country, they suggested

1) States should set camps or use mobile vans to collect samples from high density areas. The sample from all the symptomatic individuals and their contacts should be tested. ICMR suggested antigen testing for containment areas. Then, the treatment of COVID-19 patients should be started immediately. Those COVID-19 negative patients should go for RT-PCR tests.

2) The rate for RT-PCR testing should be fixed in all tests.

3) It should be mandatory for all labs to upload the testing data on the ICMR databases as well as report to state and district authorities for survelliance and contact tracing.

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