Published On : Wed, May 5th, 2021

No need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals for inter-state domestic travel

NEW DELHI: The Indian Council for Medical Research in its advisory for Covid-19 testing during the second wave of the pandemic has recommended that the need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories.

The ICMR also recommends that the vaccination status of all individuals tested for Covid-19 must be entered into the Sample Referral Form (SRF) in the RT-PCR app both for individuals tested by RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).

Explaining the need for a detailed advisory on testing for Covid-19, ICMR cites the “unprecedented upsurge of Covid-19 cases and deaths currently being witnessed across India”. The overall nationwide test positivity rate is above 20%. In this backdrop testing-tracking-tracing, isolation and home-based treatment of positive patients is the key measure to curb transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

As of today, India has a total of 2506 molecular testing laboratories including RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and other platforms. 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 case load and staff getting infected with Covid-19,” it is stated.

As part of the measures to optimise RT-PCR testing, ICMR advisory makes it clear that RT-PCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR. Also no testing is required for Covid-19 recovered individuals at the time of hospital discharge in accordance with the discharge policy of the ministry of health and family welfare. The advisory emphasises that non-essential travel and interstate travel of symptomatic individuals (Covid-19 or flu like symptoms) should be essentially avoided to reduce the risk of infection and all asymptomatic individuals undertaking essential travel must follow Covid appropriate behaviour.

It is pointed that mobile testing laboratories are now available on GeM portal and states must augment RT-PCR testing through mobile systems. “To meet the overwhelming testing demand, it will be prudent to upscale testing using Rapid Antigen Tests,” the advisory recommends. To ramp up testing through RAT it is recommended that these tests may be allowed at all available government and private healthcare facilities and dedicated RAT booths may also be set-up in cities, towns and villages to offer testing to people.

“These booths should be operational on a 24X7 basis to improve access and availability of testing,” the advisory recommends and also suggests creation of drive-through RAT testing facilities. The advisory asserts that during the current upsurge of Covid-19 cases, any individual presenting with fever with or without cough, headache, sore throat, breathlessness, body ache, recent loss of taste or smell, fatigue and diarrhea should be considered as suspect case of Covid-19 unless proven otherwise by confirmation of another etiology.