Government expands COVID19 testing to cover all hospitalised pneumonia patients

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on March 21, 2020

All hospitalised patients with pneumonia will now be able to avail of diagnostic testing for novel coronavirus (COVID19), new guidelines released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Saturday.

Experts had expressed a need for widening COVID19 testing to all pneumonia or Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) patients who have been hospitalised. In the latest revision, ICMR has said all hospitalised patients with SARI (that is, those having fever, cough and/ or shortness of breath) will now be tested.

ICMR has also noted that those who come in direct or high-risk contact with a COVID19 confirmed case should also be tested between the fifth and fourteenth day of coming in contact with the confirmed case. The contacts should be tested even if they are perfectly okay and do not display any COVID19 symptoms.

Direct and high-risk contacts include those who live in the same household with a confirmed case and healthcare workers who have examined a confirmed case without adequate protection, according to World Health Organisation recommendations.

Since March 9, ICMR has revised guidelines for COVID19 testing criteria thrice. Initially, only those who displayed symptoms of cough, breathlessness and/or SARI with international travel history and those in contact with them were tested; later, the Centre tweaked the guidelines to include all healthcare workers who were hospitalised with SARI.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued an advisory to all private hospitals to notify pneumonia cases for testing. The advisory has also instructed that no hospital, public or private, should turn away a COVID19 suspect or confirmed case.

ICMR also said all individuals who have undertaken international travel in the last 14 days should be in home quarantine for the next two weeks. They should be tested only if they become symptomatic with fever, cough and breathing difficulty. All family members living with a confirmed case should be home quarantined.

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID19 in India has touched 250, of which 23 have been cured and four have died.

Published on March 21, 2020

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