No Need For RT-PCR Test For Domestic Travel If Healthy, Suggests ICMR

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New Delhi: As coronavirus cases continue to surge in several hotspots, the demand for RT-PCR tests are multiplying and thereby putting enormous pressure on private labs and hospitals.

In December-January, it wasn’t at all difficult to call a lab or hospital and get swab sample collected from home. Now, collectors and lab technicians in several cities are so overworked that one has to wait for anything between 3 to 5 days for home collection of sample.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Tuesday that optimizing RT-PCR testing across the country is important, and recommended certain measures to ease the situation at testing facilities. One of them is that RT-PCR test must not be mandatory for domestic travel if the passenger is healthy.

“An unprecedented upsurge of COVID-19 cases and deaths is currently being witnessed across India. The overall nationwide test positivity rate is above 20%. As on today, India has a total of 2506 molecular testing laboratories including RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and other platforms,” the ICMR said.

“The total daily national testing capacity is close to 15 lakh tests considering a three-shift operationalization of the existing laboratory network. At present, the laboratories are facing challenges to meet the expected testing target due to extraordinary caseload and staff getting infected with COVID-19. In view of this situation, it is imperative to optimize the RTPCR testing and simultaneously increase the access and availability of testing to all citizens of the country,” ICMR added.

Following are recommended measures to optimize RT-PCR testing:

i) RT-PCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR test

ii) No testing is required for COVID-19 recovered individuals at the time of hospital discharge in accordance with the discharge policy of MoH&FW

iii) The need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories

iv) Non-essential travel and inter-state travel of symptomatic individuals (COVID or flu-like symptoms) should be essentially avoided to reduce the risk of infection

vi) Mobile testing laboratories are now available on GeM portal. States are encouraged to augment RT-PCR testing through mobile systems.

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