Labs should be free to test any individual: ICMR

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on July 02, 2020

Balram Bhargava, Health Secretary and Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research

States asked to let laboratories take the test of symptomatic individuals

The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) on Wednesday stated that it should not be mandatory for anyone to have a prescription from a doctor to take a Covid-19 test. ICMR asked States to let laboratories take the test of symptomatic individuals, Livemint reported.

Health Secretary Preeti Sudan and ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava wrote in a letter to the States and Union Territories that read: “In view of the increased load on government healthcare facilities, this mandatory requirement may at times pose an impediment for an individual to get tested and to lead to unnecessary delays.”

Currently, individuals need a prescription from a government doctor to seek laboratories for the Covid-19 test.

The medical body suggested that “laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance with the ICMR guidelines. At the same time, the State should allow all medical practitioners, including private doctors, to prescribe Covid-19 test to anyone fulfilling the criteria for testing,” Bhargava said.


Bhargava stressed on the need to accelerate testing in India as test-track-treat is the only way ahead to contain the virus.

So far, the medical body has approved 761 public laboratories and 288 private laboratories for Covid-19 testing. “The capacity utilisation of private laboratories for Covid-19 is grossly sub-optimal,” Bhargava mentioned. They advised the States to ensure full utilisation of all testing laboratories.

To ramp up testing facilities in the country, Bhargava recommended that all States should establish tents or use mobile vans that can gather samples for testing, especially in dense areas. People who test positive should go for treatment immediately and people who test negative should go for further RT-PCR tests.

He said that the rate for RT-PCR testing should be fixed in all tests.

It should be mandatory for all labs to upload the testing data on the ICMR databases and report to State and district authorities for surveillance and contact tracing.

Focus on contact tracing

ICMR’s Bhargava also highlighted the need for focusing on contact tracing as it holds the key to contain the virus.

“It has been observed that in some States, delineation of containment zones and contact tracing have not been undertaken with the rigour and meticulousness that is required,” Bhargava analysed.

Bhargava recommended antigen testing for early detection of Covid-19 infection. The rapid antigen tests show results in 30 minutes and can “can be interpreted with a naked eye”. The States can use it as a “point-of-care test in containment zones as well as the hospital”.

The ICMR earlier advised using antigen kits along with the gold standard RT-PCR test.

Suspected individuals who test negative for Covid-19 by rapid antigen test should be tested by RT-PCR to rule out the infection, while the positive test results should be considered as true positive, not needing reconfirmation by RT-PCR test, the apex body has been cited as saying in the Mint report.

Published on July 02, 2020

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