The Indian Council of Medical Research on Tuesday appealed to all private laboratories to offer testing for the coronavirus free of cost, the Hindustan Times reported. ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava made the remark during a press conference in New Delhi.
“We already know that we are in stage 2 [of the COVID-19 pandemic],” Bhargava said. “We are not in stage 3, clearly as of now. There are four stages. Third stage is community transmission which we hope we shouldn’t have.”
Bhargava said the government has taken stringent measures to close India’s international borders. However, he added that this does not mean community transmission of COVID-19 cannot happen.
Stage 2 refers to the juncture where there is local transmission from imported cases to one or more close contacts. Stage 3 is community transmission. The last stage is a full-blown epidemic, like the one that affected China for over two months.
Community transmission is said to occur when COVID-19 is diagnosed in someone who has not travelled to a country with an ongoing epidemic, and has not been near a confirmed case or their close contacts.
India has so far reported 137 cases of the coronavirus, of whom three patients have died. “All asymptomatic patients who have taken international flights in past 14 days should get tested if they develop symptoms,” Bhargava said on Tuesday.
Bhargava added that the ICMR is in the process of engaging private NABL-accredited laboratories for carrying out testing. NABL is the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories. The ICMR director general added that his organisation has 72 functional laboratories in the government sector for testing, and 49 will be available by the end of March.
“We’re also operationalising through two high-throughput systems which are the rapid testing laboratories,” Bhargava added, according to ANI. “They will be operationalised in two locations and they can test upto 1,400 samples per day in those labs. We’re operationalising them by the end of this week.”
The Centre on Tuesday advised all its departments and ministries to install thermal scanners and set up mandatory sanitiser dispensers at the entry of their buildings to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Centre advised that all gyms, recreational centres and creches in government office complexes be closed. It also published an advisory listing out the symptoms of the coronavirus and actions that should be taken.