Just a week after broadening the conditions that do not require COVID-19 tests, the government on Tuesday said the number of coronavirus tests in the country had fallen and needed to be ramped up.
Flagging the declining tests in many states and union territories, the centre has asked them to step up testing to keep an effective track of the pandemic can be kept and take proper action.
In a letter to states and union territories, Additional Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Arti Ahuja has advised them to pay attention to this aspect immediately and strategically increase the testing keeping in view the trend of case positivity in specific areas.
She highlighted that Omicron, which has been designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of concern, is currently spreading across the country.
“However, it is seen from the data available on the ICMR portal that testing has declined in many states and union territories,” she wrote.
She said in all advisories on testing issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), including the latest on January 10, the basic objective remains early detection of cases for quick isolation and care.
In addition, testing remains a key strategy for pandemic management as it helps in the identification of new clusters and new hotspots of infection which can, in turn, facilitate immediate action for containment such as setting up containment zones, contact tracing, quarantining, isolation and follow-up.
“Progression of disease to a severe category can be averted by strategic testing of those who are at high risk and more vulnerable, as well as in areas where the spread is likely to be higher,” Ms Ahuja said.
All those who are symptomatic must be tested and all at-risk contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases must also be tested, she said.
The Health Ministry official’s letter follows revised guidance by the ICMR last week which appeared to lay special emphasis on conditions under which one need not get a COVID-19 test ~CHECK~ instructions that seemingly led to testing centres in several cities including Delhi reportedly turning away those who sought COVID-19 tests.
Contacts of COVID-19 patients, unless identified as high-risk, asymptomatic individuals, patients who stand discharged as per home isolation guidelines, also patients discharged from a COVID-19 facility and individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel need not be tested, the ICMR had said.
India has so far recorded 3.76 crore coronavirus cases and 4.86 lakh deaths due to it. On Tuesday, the country registered 2.38 lakh new infections with a positivity rate of 14.43 per cent.