In U-turn, BMC allows testing of asymptomatic, high-risk contacts

Includes medical staff, pregnant women, dialysis, cancer patients

After an uproar over its new testing policy excluding asymptomatic people, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in a U-turn has decided to test asymptomatic, high-risk contacts after the fifth day of quarantine. Labs that violate the new rule will face action.

On April 12, the BMC decided to prioritise testing to reduce the burden on its labs. However, it sparked outrage with India already under fire over its poor testing rate. On Wednesday, the BMC held a meeting to revise its policy after the city reported a drop in new COVID-19 cases and deaths, which was seen as an effect of reduced testing.

Asymptomatic people will now have to be tested between the fifth and 14th day of quarantine as per norms of the Indian Council of Medical Research. The revised guidelines state: “High-risk contacts may be tested on the fifth day after careful observation. High-risk contacts with co-morbidities should be admitted as per guidelines issued for isolation/admission. If symptoms develop in quarantined asymptomatic people, they will be tested within the 14-day period.”

A majority of COVID-19 patients in Mumbai are asymptomatic and those who were admitted to hospitals are being moved to quarantine facilities. Patients who live in multi-storeyed buildings and can set aside a room with an attached toilet will be allowed to be in home quarantine; others will be placed in institutional quarantine facilities.

According to the new circular, healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 patients but are asymptomatic will now be tested. If they are high-risk contacts, women pregnant up to 34 weeks, patients undergoing dialysis and chemotherapy will be tested even if they are asymptomatic. If they aren’t high-risk contasts, they will be screened before dialysis/chemotherapy /C-section.

Risk of false negative

The BMC said all asymptomatic people will be tested after the seventh day. It said, “If asymptomatic people are tested within seven days, there is a chance that the results might be ‘false negative’ when they may actually be positive. That is why, asymptomatic people will be quarantined and tested after the seventh day.”

If asymptomatic high-risk contacts do not have symptoms within 14 days, they will still be tested on the 14th day as per the new norms.

BMC has claimed to have the highest testing rate in the country. By April 13, the civic body had conducted 27,397 tests or 12.59% of the country’s total tests.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 6:56:54 AM |

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