Covid-19: Efforts start to upscale rapid antigen testing in Pune region

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The recommendation of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says that the need for RT-PCR tests for healthy people travelling from one state to another can be completely curbed as such tests are adding to the burden on laboratories. "RAT is a good screening test for symptomatic and can potentially reduce the number of RT-PCRs needed to diagnose Covid-19".

V. Ravi, nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka, who is also part of the State's Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), said with symptomatic patients being prime drivers of the infection in Karnataka, rapid tests will help cut transmission at an early stage. States can also build up their RT-PCR testing capacity using mobile systems like mobile laboratories on the GeM portal.

As per ICMR advisory, there will be no need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals for inter-state domestic travel.

There will be also be no testing for those who have recovered from Covid, and RT-PCR testing will not be repeated after an individual tests positive using either RAT or RT-PCR. "To meet the overwhelming testing demand, it will be prudent to upscale testing through RATs".

Meanwhile, India on Wednesday registered 3,82,315 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 2,06,65,148 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. So, to optimize the RT-PCR testing and simultaneously increase the access and availability of testing, the ICMR said it was permitting RAT tests.

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India's health research agency on Tuesday recommended a stop to Covid-19 RT-PCR tests before inter-state travel and asked for 24x7 booths for rapid antigen tests nationwide in efforts to scale up surveillance at a time labs are under intense stress.

The apex health research body also recommended upscaling testing using RATs and stated that RAT may be allowed at all available government and private healthcare facilities and setting up dedicated RAT booths in cities, towns and villages to offer testing to people.

Drive-through RAT testing facilities may be created at convenient locations as identified by local administration and stringent measures must be instituted to avoid overcrowding at RAT testing facilities, the ICMR stated.

Apart from designated test labs, testing facilities can be set up at locations like healthcare facilities, RWA, offices, schools, colleges, community centres and other vacant spaces.

Symptomatic individuals identified negative by RAT should be linked with R-TPCR test facility and in the meantime be urged to follow home isolation and treatment. Amid this, there have been several reports that RT-PCR test results are getting delayed by days.

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