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The chief of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Balram Bhargava on Tuesday talked about the country’s testing strategy to combat the severely devastating second wave of coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The new strategy involves an increased focus on rapid antigen tests (RATs) for faster testing and isolation, Dr Bhargava said at a press conference emphasising on the need for early detection and isolation which he said are keys to break the chain of transmission.
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The ICMR chief added that the need of the hour is to aggressively use RAT at the field and rural levels to increase access and availability and detect Covid-19 infection faster.
As part of the revised testing strategy, multiple 24×7 operational RAT booths will be set up in cities, towns and villages, said Dr Bhargava. “RATs will be allowed at all government and private healthcare facilities without the need of any accreditation. The booths for RAT will be set up with the community in schools, colleges, community centers and offices of the RWAs,” added Dr Bhargava. He said that public-private partnership models are being encouraged to establish innovative and convenient testing centres, adding that some states are already following it.
Detailing the three-step plan to facilitate testing, the ICMR DG said that RT-PCR tests have been rationalised, and RAT to be increased for early detection and tests approved by global agencies have been accorded marketing permission by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). Additionally, home-based testing solutions are being explored, said Dr Bhargava.
Talking about optimising RT-PCR tests, he said that the tests must not be repeated in individuals who tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR and no testing is required at the time of hospital discharge for individuals who have recovered. “No need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel, non-essential travel and interstate travel of symptomatic individuals should be essentially avoided,” Bhargava said during the press briefing. “All asymptomatic individuals undertaking essential travel must follow Covid appropriate behaviour,” he said, adding that mobile testing laboratories are being deployed for increased access.
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India conducted nearly 2 million (1,945,299) tests to detect Covid-19 on April 30, the highest in the world on a single day, Dr Bhargava said. The national Covid-19 positivity rate of the country stands at 21 per cent and 310 out of 734 districts report more than the national average, he added.
The country on Tuesday witnessed a dip in daily cases as it registered over 329,000 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, while 3,876 people succumbed to the disease.