Coronavirus | ICMR asks private labs to hold free tests

The Council says it is pressing into action two rapid-testing units at Odisha and Noida which can test 1,400 samples a day.

March 17, 2020 10:12 pm | Updated 11:12 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Indian health workers spray disinfectants as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 in Jammu.

Indian health workers spray disinfectants as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 in Jammu.

The Union Health Ministry has made it mandatory for private institutions to notify coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) patients while the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has appealed to private labs which have approached them to offer the test for free.

State Helpline numbers | A map of confirmed cases in India

“They have come forward to help us and this is our appeal to them during this time of need to offer their services for free. ICMR will share the SOPs for laboratory testing and provide positive controls for establishing the test as soon as the concerned private laboratory has procured the primers, probes and reagents as per SOPs.

Adoption of commercial kits for testing should be based on validations conducted by lCMR-National institute of Virology, Pune,” ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargav said on Tuesday.

ICMR is also pressing into action two rapid-testing units at Odisha and Noida which can test 1,400 samples a day and this would be functional by the end of the week. It has proposed to install more such units in at least 5 locations on an urgent basis.

Guidelines to labs

The Council also issued guidelines to private sector labs stating that the test should be only offered when prescribed by a qualified physician as per the ICMR guidance for testing. Since the guidance evolves periodically, the latest revised version should be followed.

“Appropriate bio-safety and bio-security precautions should be ensured while collecting samples from a suspect patient. Alternatively, a disease-specific separate collection site may be created. Also, all the private testing laboratories are to ensure immediate/ real-time reporting to State officials of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and ICMR headquarters for timely initiation of contact tracing and research activities,” noted ICMR.

Handling of bodies

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry issued an advisory on handling of bodies with COVID-19 stating that autopsies should be avoided.

“If autopsy is to be performed for special reasons, a well-trained and limited staff should be used. Embalming of the body should not be allowed. Also, all staff identified to handle bodies in the isolation area, mortuary, ambulance and those workers in the crematorium / burial ground should be trained in the infection prevention control practices,” notes the guideline.

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