India updates protocol for whom to quarantine and test for Covid-19, and ropes in private labs

There is nothing like too much precaution.
There is nothing like too much precaution.
Image: REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
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India is all set to ramp up its screening mechanism for coronavirus.

Yesterday (March 17), the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) decided to rope in certified medical institutions for the purpose. So far, only government centres were allowed to collect samples for Covid-19 testing.

“By the end of this week, there will be 72 functional ICMR labs for Covid-19 testing and also 49 others in the government system. We are also in talks with 51 private laboratories, accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories, to start testing. On behalf of ICMR, we appeal to them to give the tests free of cost in national interest,” Balram Bhargava, secretary at the department of health research said yesterday while addressing the media.

Additionally, two labs with a capacity to process 1,400 samples per day each are being readied.

ICMR also said that India is currently in the second stage of the outbreak. This basically means there is local transmission of the disease but no community spread.

Meanwhile, the government has issued fresh guidelines to private institutions for notifying positive cases.

Bhargava also informed that the protocol for coronavirus testing has been updated. The criteria has now been expanded to include health workers caring for Covid-19 patients who start showing symptoms. Earlier it was limited to symptomatic people with a travel history to affected countries or those who come into contact with infected persons.

The ground reality

Despite the government’s efforts, many Indian citizens took to social media to flag the loopholes in the testing process.

Claims of how India is not testing enough are doing the rounds on social media.

Some of the passengers also documented their experience at Indian airports while waiting to get tested, and complained about lack of empathy and hygiene from authorities.

Cases continue to rise

Amid the complaints, India continues to report a spike in cases. As of this morning (March 18), India has a total of 130 patients, including foreign nationals, who have tested positive for the Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the newly formed union territory of Jammu & Kashmir has banned the entry of all foreign tourists as a precautionary measure.

In Odisha, at least four districts have imposed Section 144 restricting gatherings to less than five people to minimise the spread of the Covid-19.

Indian Army, too, has postponed all its courses in the wake of the outbreak. The National Defence College, where senior military officers study, has been temporarily closed.