The Indian Council of Medical Research on Tuesday issued new guidelines for using RT-PCR tests in order to reduce pressure on diagnostic labs amid a surge in coronavirus cases. The research body said that the laboratories were facing challenges to meet the expected testing target due to the “extraordinary” caseload and staff testing positive for the infection.

“The need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories,” the ICMR said in a circular. It added that the RT-PCR test should not be done on individuals who have once tested positive either by RAT or RT-PCR test. “No testing is required for Covid-19-recovered individuals at the time of hospital discharge.”

It said that mobile testing labs were available on Government e-Marketplace, an online portal for government departments to procure commonly-needed goods and services. The ICMR asked the states to use boost RT-PCR testing through these mobile labs.

The ICMR also advised the states to use RAT tests, which have a turnaround time of 15 minutes to 30 minutes, for quick detection of cases so that patients can be treated early and the transmission of the infection can be curbed. “So far, ICMR has approved 36 RATs of which 10 are on GeM [Government e-Marketplace] portal,” the circular said. “To meet the overwhelming testing demand, it will be prudent to upscale testing through RATs.”

To boost testing using RATs, the research body allowed its use at all government and private medical facilities. It also said that dedicated RAT booths can be set up in cities, towns and villages to allow people to get tested.

The research body said that such booths should be operational round the clock and can be set up at vacant places in offices, schools, community centres and other areas.

The ICMR also made it mandatory to enter the information of vaccination status in the testing form for RAT or RT-PCR.

India is reeling under the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and has been reporting over three lakh cases for nearly 15 days in a row, since April 22. The healthcare infrastructure is under strain due to the surge in cases. There is a shortage of oxygen, medical supplies and even hospitals. Amid this, there have been several reports that RT-PCR test results are getting delayed by days.

Meanwhile, India on Wednesday registered 3,82,315 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 2,06,65,148 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The toll climbed by 3,780 to 2,26,188. The number of active cases in the country stood at 34,87,229.

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