People in Kerala who have come in contact with COVID-19 patients and showing mild symptoms will not be tested, according to revised guidelines issued on March 12 by the Kerala Health Ministry. Kerala has so far reported 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Following the changes, people exhibiting low grade fever, mild sore throat, cough, rhinitis or diarrhoea will not be tested for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Only those with severe symptoms or with underlying conditions of the lungs, heart, liver and kidney, pregnant women and those older than 60 years will be tested for the virus.
The revised guidelines are for testing, quarantine and hospital admission of COVID-19 patients based on risk assessment.
“Patients with mild symptoms are advised not to come to hospitals for testing and treatment. Testing is not going to change either the clinical course or management of the patient with mild symptoms,” the Kerala Ministry guidelines said.
As per ICMR guidelines
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) testing guidelines for COVID-19 issued on March 9, individuals with a travel history to the affected countries or close contacts of positive cases who are in quarantine will be tested if they show symptoms during quarantine.
Explaining the rationale behind the revised guidelines, Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shylaja told The Hindu : “Many of the mild symptoms are similar to other conditions. If we give importance to patients with mild symptoms then testing for the more deserving ones will get delayed.”
“We had traced and tested the samples of around 1,500 people who came in contact with the family that returned from Italy and tested positive for coronavirus. We are also testing samples of passengers arriving in Kerala airports if they exhibit symptoms,” the Health Minister said.
More labs authorised
The National Institute of Virology (NIV) unit in Alappuzha was one of the first testing labs in the country that was permitted to confirm COVID-19 positive samples without sending them to NIV-Pune. Due to increased number of people being tested, Kerala has got permission from ICMR to confirm samples for novel coronavirus in two more labs in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram.
According to Dr. Nivedita Gupta of ICMR, confirmatory assays have been shipped to these two labs. “After standardisation, both labs will be able to confirm for COVID-19 from Wednesday onwards,” she said.
The ICMR has also permitted Thrissur Medical College Hospital to test for COVID-19 beginning March 16. However, the Thrissur Hospital will be required to send samples to the NIV unit in Alappuzha for confirmation. Kerala has sought permission from the ICMR to carry out tests in two more institutions in the capital — the Public Health Lab and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB).