The Indian Council of Medical Research on Thursday issued an advisory for the use of antibody tests in areas emerging as coronavirus hotspots for faster diagnosis. The Centre has so far identified 20 Covid-19 hotspots and 22 potential ones, according to PTI. The criteria for marking a place a hotspot is, however, not known. India has reported 1,965 Covid-19 cases so far, and 50 deaths.

In a press release, the testing organisation said that antibody positives can be confirmed by using a throat or nasal swab. Those who test negative for antibodies should be quarantined at home, it added.

On March 28, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that the state would carry out rapid antibody tests for Covid-19. “Blood samples of those under observation will be collected to detect possible community transmission,” he had said. However, the ICMR said at the time that it was not consulted in the matter.

On March 29, reports said that the Karnataka government wanted to carry out mass testing with the rapid antibody test. CN Manjunath, nodal officer for coronavirus testing in the state, had said that Karnataka wanted to buy one lakh such antibody-based kits from a Singaporean manufacturer at less than Rs 800 per kit, compared to Rs 2,500 at present. “These kits will give results in 15 minutes,” he had said. “I have been told these kits have been tested elsewhere in Europe, South Korea among other places.”

On Wednesday, Chattisgarh minister TS Singh Deo said he had written a letter to the Centre asking that ICMR formulate comprehensive guidelines for use of rapid tests, as they have been used all over the world.

The Maharashtra government had earlier in the day said that the Centre had granted it permission to conduct rapid Covid-19 testing on a mass scale by using blood samples to accelerate the process of detecting coronavirus cases in the state, PTI reported. Maharashtra has at least 335 coronavirus cases – the highest in India. However, state health officials have said there are 416 cases and 19 deaths.

The announcement was made after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video conference with chief ministers of all the states and the Union Territories to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

“The state government will use blood samples instead of swabs to conduct rapid tests that can ascertain in five minutes whether a person has developed antibodies for the Covid-19,” said Health Minister Rajesh Tope, who also attended the video conference. “Mass-scale testing will expedite the state’s screening procedure.”

Tope said the prime minister asked the Maharashtra government to take care of migrant workers in the state amid the countrywide lockdown. “There are some 3.25 lakh migrant labourers in various state-run facilities. Modi asked us to not only take care of their food, but also provide them TV sets so that they can have some entertainment and do not leave the shelter,” the health minister said.

Modi also asked the Maharashtra government to sanitize all containment zones – areas created around localities where a higher number of infections were reported. “There are 146 such areas where sanitisation will start soon,” Tope said.

“Our health department has prepared online training module for Asha [accredited social health activist] workers, as well as multi-purpose workers registered with the state who will be trained for treating Covid-19 patients,” he added.

Around 1,400 persons from Maharashtra attended a religious event held at the Nizamuddin Markazin Delhi last month, the health minister said. “Out of these 1,300 have been traced till now.” he added.

Health authorities in Maharashtra have been on high-alert after two people tested positive for the coronavirus in Mumbai’s Dharavi area, Asia’s largest slum dwelling. One of them – a 56 year-old resident – died at Sion Hospital on Wednesday.

The emergence of the virus in Dharavi has raised concerns as more than a million people live in the cramped locality, Tope said. “Till now it [coronavirus] was classist but now it is being seen among the masses as well.”

Meanwhile, Sai Hospital in Chembur has been sealed and Saifee Hospital, Jaslok Hospital, Bhabha Hospital and Hinduja Hospital have been partially affected due to exposure to coronavirus patients, reported ANI.

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