ICMR recommends rapid antigen tests to meet growing demand for Covid testing

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 05, 2021

RAT has shorter turnaround time and offers advantage of quick detection of cases

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Tuesday issued new guidelines for Covid-19 testing during the second wave of the pandemic, recommending more rapid antigen tests or RAT instead of RT-PCR to meet the overwhelming testing demand and addressing the backlog issues with the laboratories.

“RAT has a short turnaround time of 15-30 minutes and thus offers a huge advantage of quick detection of cases and opportunity to isolate and treat them early for curbing transmission,” ICMR said, adding that it has approved 36 RATs of which 10 are on GeM portal.

To ramp up testing through RAT, ICMR has recommended to allow this test in all the government and private healthcare facilities and also set up dedicated booths in cities, towns and villages to offer testing to people. Besides the healthcare facilities, these 24x7 testing booths can be set up at schools, colleges, community centres and other available vacant spaces.

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For optimum RT-PCR testing

For the optimum RT-PCR testing, ICMR said it should not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT-PCR and also no testing is required for the recovered ones at the time of discharge. Those individuals who are healthy and are taking inter-State domestic travel may not be needed to undergo RT-PCR testing, as per the recommendations.

Besides this, ICMR has advised to ensure full utilisation of the available RT-PCR testing capacity, both in public and private hospitals. Meanwhile, symptomatic individuals identified positive by RAT should not be re-tested and advised to go through home-based care.

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“During the current upsurge of Covid-19 cases, any individual presenting with fever with/without cough, headache, sore throat, breathlessness, body ache, recent loss of taste or smell, fatigue and diarrhoea should be considered as suspect of Covid-19 unless proven otherwise by confirmation of another etiology,” ICMR added.

Furthermore, the vacation status of all individuals tested for Covid-19 must be entered into the sample referral form or SRF in the RT-PCR app both for individuals tested by RT-PCR and RAT, as per the advisory which further stated that the payment modalities for updated RAT testing may be decided by the State health authorities.

Published on May 05, 2021

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