Test-track-treat: States, UTs urged to go ‘campaign mode’ to ramp up COVID-19 testing
Health secretary Preeti Sudan and Dr Balram Bhargava, DG (ICMR) reiterate ‘test-track-treat’ as key strategy for early detection and containment of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an effort to remove all impediments in the testing for COVID-19 in the country, the Union government has urged all states and UTs to take immediate steps to facilitate and ramp up testing for coronavirus and advised “campaign mode”.
Health secretary Preeti Sudan and Dr Balram Bhargava, DG (ICMR) on Wednesday reiterated in a release that ‘test-track-treat’ is the key strategy for early detection and containment of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ensure full capacity utilization of testing labs
Pointing out that in some states and UTs, the capacity utilization of the testing labs, particularly the ones in private sector, is grossly sub-optimal, states and UTs have been strongly advised to take all possible steps to ensure full capacity utilization of all COVID-19 testing laboratories in the state/ UT, according to a PIB release.
Include private practitioners
States and UTs have been advised to facilitate testing at the earliest by enabling all qualified medical practitioners, including private practitioners, to prescribe COVID test to any individual fulfilling the criteria for testing as per ICMR guidelines.
Point-of-care Rapid Antigen Test for early detection of COVID-19
The ICMR has strongly recommended that laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance to the ICMR guidelines and state authorities must not restrict an individual from getting tested, as early testing will help in containing the virus and saving lives. While RT-PCR is the gold standard for diagnosis of COVlD-19, ICMR has recently approved the use of a point-of-care Rapid Antigen Test for early detection of COVID-19. The test is quick, simple, safe and can be used as a point-of-care test in containment zones as well as hospitals, as per criteria specified by ICMR for testing. More such kits are being validated by ICMR to increase available options to citizens. ICMR has so far approved a total of 1,056 laboratories for COVID-19 testing. Of this, 764 labs are in the public sector and 292 are in the private sector.
Testing in Campaign Mode
In order to facilitate testing, states and UTs have also been advised to make efforts in 'campaign mode' by setting up camps and using mobiles vans in high incidence areas to collect samples of all symptomatic individuals as well as their contacts, and get those samples tested by using rapid antigen tests. The positive individuals should be treated according to the treatment protocol and the negative ones should be tested for RT-PCR.
Rate for RT-PCR test by private labs
Also, the rate for RT-PCR test by private labs should be finalized by the States/UTs. They have been further advised to make it mandatory for all labs to upload the testing data on the ICMR database as well as report to State/ District/ City authorities for surveillance and contact tracing.
Contact tracing holds key to containing coronavirus
In addition to ramping up and facilitating testing, States/UTs have also been urged to pay attention to 'contact tracing' as it holds the key to containing the virus. States have also been asked to maintain strict vigil and continue to make all possible efforts for effective management of COVID-19.