On Friday, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued a new advisory on the Coronavirus testing strategy in the country. As per the revised guidelines [pdf], any individual in India can now get tested on-demand. Doing away with the previous advisory that only ‘symptomatic’ patients and contacts of infected individuals can get tested, ICMR, in a welcome move, has made testing open for all.
ICMR in its advisory stated, “All individuals undertaking travel to countries/Indian states mandating a negative COVID-19 test at the point of entry” can get tested. Moreover, any individual who is willing to undergo Coronavirus test can now do so at any government-approved centre. ICMR has stated that the State governments will decide the ‘simplified modalities’ for conducting such tests.
Guidelines for conducting coronavirus tests
“Tracking and contact tracing mechanisms should be ensured by the testing laboratories by notifying the public health authorities,” ICMR said in its new guidelines. Now, a single Rt-PCR/TrueNat/CBNAAT/RAT test will be deemed as confirmatory without the need for a re-test. Besides, re-testing is not mandatory for patients discharged from Coronavirus facility. However, ICMR has reiterated that a repeat RT-PCR/RAT test is only required if an individual develops symptoms, following a Rapid Antigen test.
ICMR advisory for individuals those who need to be tested
ICMR has informed that all symptomatic health workers, frontline workers, and other high-risk contacts such as those above the age of 65 should be tested once between Day 5 and Day 10 of coming in contact with an infected patient. The apex body stated that even asymptomatic patients with co-morbidities, living in containment zones, must be tested, besides individuals with international travel history in 14 days.
The new guidelines also apply to migrants with over 7 days of illness, patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), asymptomatic patients with malignant disease, chronic co-morbidities, transplant patients and so on. ICMR has stated that asymptomatic patients undergoing non-surgical invasive procedures must be tested once a week during their stay at the hospital facility. The advisory also includes patients suffering from stroke, encephalitis, hemoptysis, pulmonary embolism, acute coronary symptoms, Guillain Barre syndrome, Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome, progressive gastrointestinal symptoms, and Kawasaki Disease.
ICMR guidelines for pregnant women
The apex body emphasised that emergency procedures such as delivery and child birth should not be delayed due to lack of availability of the ‘COVID-19 test’. It highlighted that arrangements must be made to collect samples and sent to testing laboratories, instead of referring pregnant women to other hospitals. “Mothers who test positive for COVID-19 should be advised to wear a mask and undertake frequent handwashing while handling their baby for 14 days. They should also be advised on breast cleaning before feeding the neonate. These measures are likely to reduce transmission of COVID-19 to their babies,” the ICMR advisory read.
Reportedly, the new guidelines were issued by the ICMR after the Delhi High Court directed the State government to include asymptomatic patients for testing. In its response to the court, ICMR has stated that it is an ‘advisory body’ and that the State governments are free to make amends to the issued guidelines as per their discretion.