The Centre on Saturday suggested that the maximum rate for every coronavirus test by private laboratories should not be more than Rs 4,500, reported PTI. In India, 324 people have been infected with the virus, and four people have been killed, according to the Union health ministry.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines, all private laboratories with National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories accreditation for real-time polymerase chain reaction SA for RNA virus will be allowed to conduct tests. The notification was issued by the Union health ministry.

The National Task Force recommended the maximum rate for testing should be capped at Rs 4,500. This could include Rs 1,500 as screening suspected cases, and an additional Rs 3,000 for confirmation tests, the guidelines said. “However, the ICMR encourages free or subsidised testing in this hour of national public health emergency,” the statement added.

Guidelines on sample collection and testing said that appropriate biosafety and biosecurity measures needed to be taken while collecting respiratory samples (oropharnygeal and nasal swab) from a patient. A sample collection site only for coronavirus may also be created, the notification added.

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“Preferable home collection of samples may be done by all the private laboratories which will help avoid the contact of people with the suspect cases during local travel to reach the laboratory,” it said. The guideline further included specifications for the commercial kits for real-time PCR-based diagnosis.

All the laboratory staff involved in the testing should be be trained in good practices and performing real-time PCR. The biomedical waste should be disposed off according to national guidelines. The notification added that laboratory test should only be offered when prescribed by a qualified physician.

On reporting protocol, the guidelines added that all laboratories should ensure immediate/real-time reporting of the test results along with contact information to the ICMR headquarters database. Every laboratory will also be given a registration number by the ICMR that must be prominently displayed in case any advertisement was made and also in the report.

ICMR on Friday revised its testing criteria for COVID-19 saying all hospitalised patients with SARS, shortness of breath, and fever and cough will now be tested. SARS is severe acute respiratory illness.

The coronavirus testing agency also said that asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case must be tested once between the fifth and the fourteenth day of coming in contact with the patient. The ICMR defined direct and high-risk contact as those living with a COVID-19 patient, and healthcare workers who examine confirmed cases without adequate protection, according to World Health Organization guidelines.