Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal issued an order on Monday directing the state government to test asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, saying that not doing so was a violation of the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

On June 2, the Delhi government, unveiling its testing strategy for Covid-19, ruled out tests for asymptomatic contacts of confirmed patients. “This deviation in the ICMR guidelines can result in inadequate contact tracing of affected individuals and can result in further spread of Covid-19 in NCT of Delhi,” Baijal said in his order.

Delhi is one of the worst-affected regions in the country. Till Monday evening, it had reported 29,943 infections, including 874 deaths.

Clause 5 of the ICMR’s May 18 testing strategy says “asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case to be tested once between Day 5 and Day 10 of coming into contact”. However, the Director General of Health Services (Delhi) removed the word “asymptomatic” from its order of June 2, The Indian Express reported. It specified that the only direct and high-risk contacts who will be eligible for testing will include diabetics, patients of hypertension, cancer or senior citizens.

Monday’s order from the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, of whom Baijal is the chairperson, said: “In order to contain the spread of Covid-19, it is essential to conduct a thorough contact tracing of affected persons, and as such, the ICMR strategy for Covid-19 testing should be followed without any deviation.”

The Arvind Kejriwal-led government had issued a notice to eight laboratories for conducting tests on asymptomatic patients, allegedly in violation of the guidelines set by the Indian Council of Medical Research. The Aam Aadmi Party government had also alleged that many asymptomatic persons, after testing positive, occupy beds in private hospitals instead of opting for home isolation.

The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the state government and the Indian Council of Medical Research to reply to two pleas, challenging the health department’s decision to exclude asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic patients from coronavirus testing.

Earlier on Monday, Baijal issued another order prohibiting the reservation of state-run hospitals, and some private ones, for residents of the city. Baijal directed the government and medical authorities in the national Capital to ensure that treatment was not denied to anybody on the grounds that they were not residents of the city.

This order too, was in contravention of the AAP government’s decision to not allow non-residents of Delhi to be admitted to these hospitals. Kejriwal said that Baijal’s order had created a huge challenge for the Delhi government, which is already struggling to control the escalating coronavirus crisis.

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