The Chhattisgarh government on Monday wrote to the Centre seeking the expansion of testing facilities for the novel coronavirus pandemic in the country, to reduce the spread of the infection.

State Health Minister TS Singh Deo asked authorities to primarily expand the criteria for testing, allow more centres to carry out screening and to further provide the necessary number of testing kits. Over 6,000 people have died and 1.6 lakh infected globally over the past two months. In India, two people have died and more than 100 cases have been reported.

In a letter addressed to Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan, Deo called the current testing criteria for the virus restrictive and asked the Centre to consider the advantages of testing more number of individuals clinically.

“Early identification can help in reducing the spread of infection. It will help in better targeting our resources on confirmed cases,” the letter said, adding that such appropriate medical management will also reduce the fatality rate. “If a large number of clinically suspected individuals are tested negative, it will help in reducing chances of panic.”

Citing the example of South Korea – one of the worst-affected countries from the pandemic – that has carried out more than 4,000 tests per million persons, Deo said India, in comparison, has one of the lowest rates of testing globally, only around 3 tests per million persons.

The letter sent by Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo.

“They [the Centre] allow only those to be tested who have travelled to certain affected countries and have symptoms or have been in contact with COVID-19 positive cases,” the minister said in the letter. “The supply of testing kits has been limited and the restrictive criteria have resulted is limited use of available kits. Doctors in other hospitals, including private ones, are unable to send samples for testing even when they suspect cases on clinical grounds.”

Deo further expressed concern over the limited role of the state governments in providing medical assistance to screen people. “In Chhattisgarh, like many other states, only one centre is carrying out the testing currently. We are concerned whether Government of India will provide us the adequate number of kits if we allow wider testing,” he said. “ I can assure you that all precautions will be observed in our laboratories and samples will be handled properly to prevent any spread.”

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there has been a coordinated response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in India, adding that “no stone is being left unturned” to ensure that people are healthy.

Meanwhile, Odisha reported its first positive case of coronavirus in the state. The patient has a travel history to Italy, the second most heavily affected country by the pandemic in the world after China. However, the Union Health Ministry is yet to confirm this case. The ministry has so far confirmed 110 cases.

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