Coronavirus | Health Ministry clears COVID-19 tests without prescription

India second in world in overall case tally, overtakes Brazil.

Updated - September 05, 2020 11:33 pm IST

Published - September 05, 2020 02:28 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Health workers collect samples for COVID-19 testing during a door-to-door campaign in Puducherry on September 5, 2020.

Health workers collect samples for COVID-19 testing during a door-to-door campaign in Puducherry on September 5, 2020.

The Union Health Ministry on Saturday issued an updated advisory for COVID-19 testing simplifying the process and giving more flexibility to the State authorities to facilitate enhanced ease of testing.

Also read: Govt. turns focus to villages for coronavirus testing

“For the first time, along with more simplified modalities, the updated guidelines provide for ‘on demand’ testing in order to ensure higher levels of testing. These changes have been brought in on the recommendations of the National Task Force on COVID-19,’’ says a release issued by the Ministry.

“A totally new section, “Testing on Demand”, has been added in the advisory which, for all practical purposes, does away with prescription by a registered medical practitioner although the State governments have the freedom to decide on the simplified modalities,’’ says the Ministry.

As per the new addition, testing will be provided to all individuals undertaking travel to countries/Indian States mandating a negative COVID-19 test at the point of entry and also to all individuals who wish to get themselves tested.

Also read: After U.S., India has done most COVID-19 tests, says White House

“Tracking and contact tracing mechanisms should be ensured by the testing laboratories by notifying the public health authorities,’’ the Ministry says.

India surpasses Brazil’s tally

This advisory came on a day India overtook Brazil to become the country with the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. Cumulative cases stood at 41,04,497 at the time of going to press, nearly 11,600 more than Brazil’s tally. However, Brazil’s death toll is about 1.7 times more than India’s. 

Saturday saw 84,385 confirmed cases and 1,019 deaths till 10.15 p.m., with data yet to come from Assam, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Meghalaya. This marked the fourth straight day when more than 80,000 infections were identified.

Giving details on the frequency of testing, a senior health Ministry official noted that as per the advisory, a single RT-PCR/TrueNat/CBNAAT/ Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) positive test was to be considered confirmatory, without any repeat testing.

Also read: Fewer COVID-19 re-tests mar Delhi’s testing strategy

“No retesting is recommended prior to discharge from a COVID-19 facility after clinical recovery, including for transfer from a COVID area/ facility to a non-COVID area/ facility,’’ he said, adding that that if symptoms developed following a negative RAT test, a repeat RAT or RT-PCR should be done.

Home quarantine for 14 days is recommended for all individuals before undergoing elective surgery to minimise chances of infection before the procedure. The Ministry states that no emergency procedure (including deliveries) should be delayed for lack of test. However, samples could be sent for testing under specific conditions.

Pregnant mothers

“Pregnant women should not be referred for lack of testing facility. All arrangements should be made to collect and transfer samples to testing facilities. Mothers, who test positive for COVID-19, should be advised to wear a mask and undertake frequent hand-washing while handling their baby for 14 days. They should also be advised on breast cleaning before feeding the neonate. These measures are likely to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to their babies,’’ says the Ministry.

The advisory elaborates on the tests that should be used for various settings, including routine surveillance in containment zones and screening at points of entry, routine surveillance in the non-containment areas and in hospital settings among others.

In hospital settings, RT-PCR or TrueNat or CBNAAT, RAT – can be used for patients of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), all symptomatic (ILI symptoms) patients presenting in a healthcare setting, asymptomatic high-risk patients who are hospitalised or seeking immediate hospitalization such as immune compromised individuals, patients diagnosed with malignant disease, transplant patients, patients with chronic co-morbidities etc. For routine surveillance in non-containment areas, all symptomatic (ILI symptoms) individuals with history of international travel in the last 14 days are to be tested among others, notes the Ministry.

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