Covid test rule tweak by ICMR
The Centre on Friday released a fresh advisory for coronavirus disease tests, recommending “testing-on-demand” for everyone who wishes to get tested and tests on all the people living in containment zones, particularly in cities with widespread transmission.
The new advisory from the Indian Council of Medical Research formalises “testing-on-demand”, a concept that doctors say has already been in practice since the June 23 advisory that had said anyone with respiratory symptoms may be tested for Covid-19.
But the recommendation to expand testing for routine surveillance in containment zones appears to disregard a call this week from top public health experts for targeted testing. Indiscriminate testing would only divert resources from control measures and would not necessarily save lives, they said.
The council has iterated its policy to test all asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of new lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases once between day 5 and day 10 of coming in contact.
All asymptomatic high-risk individuals such as those aged above 65 years or those with underlying health disorders living in containment zones should also be tested, it said.
“Ideally, it is suggested that 100 per cent of people living in containment zones should be tested… particularly in cities where there has been widespread transmission of the infection,” it said.
Public health specialists said they were puzzled. “We have to ask — what is the purpose of expanding testing?” said Oommen John, a physician and senior research fellow at The George Institute for Global Health, New Delhi. “Many cities with widespread transmission are not in a phase where the infection can be really contained any more — that period is over.”
The Indian Public Health Association and two other professional bodies had on Monday urged the government to cease indiscriminate testing and turn attention to preventing deaths.