The number of Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, or RT-PCR, tests for the coronavirus will be reduced to 40% of the total tests by the end of June, the Centre said on Thursday, according to PTI. An RT-PCR test is considered to be the “gold standard” for Covid-19 screening.

The announcement differed from the 70% RT-PCR test target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his meeting with the chief ministers in April.

At a press briefing on Thursday, Indian Council of Medical Research Director-General Balram Bhargava said India had been doing 16-20 lakh tests (per day) this week. “We have a capacity of about 20 lakh tests by end of the month and up to the end of next month we can have the capacity of up to 45 lakh because ICMR has validated more than 105 RAT [Rapid Antigen Test] companies and approved 41 of them and 31 of them are indigenous” he said, according to PTI.

Out of the 45 lakh tests, 18 lakh will be RT-PCR, while 27 lakh will be Rapid Antigen Tests, which are considered to be less sensitive. RAT may show false negatives – wrongly indicating that the infection is absent. However, experts believe that their accuracy of the tests increase when the viral load is high.

The Centre has reduced its stated RT-PCR test capacity from 16 lakh per day last week to 12-13 lakh a day, according to data presented by the Union health ministry in its press briefings on May 11 and May 20.

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Now, the health ministry has classified RT-PCR as “standard test” instead of “gold standard”.

Source: Ministry of Heath and Family Welfare

According to the ICMR’s update on Thursday morning, India conducted more than 20 lakh coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours. Over 51% tests were RT-PCR, while 43.4% were rapid antigen tests, NDTV reported. The share of TrueNat/CBNat tests was 5.3%.

India is grappling with a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus, which has overwhelmed the health infrastructure. Several states are grappling with acute shortages of oxygen, vaccines and drugs.

On Friday morning, India recorded 2,59,551 new coronavirus cases, pushing the infection tally to 2,60,31,991 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The toll climbed by 4,209 to 2,91,331.