Give free hand to private sector on COVID-19 testing: Centre to states

Prescription by a govt doctor should not be mandatory, improve contract tracing too

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 01 July 2020
The letter has asked states to ramp up COVID-19 testing. Photo:

The central government has written a letter to all states and union territories (UTs) to ramp up testing for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It has advised them to do away with bottlenecks regarding testing in the private sector.

The joint letter, written by Union health ministry secretary Preeti Sudan and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s director-general Balram Bhargava on July 1, 2020, says, “It has been observed that in some states / UTs, the capacity utilisation of the testing labs, particularly the ones in private sector, is grossly sub-optimal.” 

The ministry has said the prescription from a government doctor to be eligible for a COVID-19 test should not be made mandatory, as has been done in some states.

“This mandatory requirement may, at times, pose an impediment for an individual to get tested and lead to unnecessary delays. At this juncture, it is absolutely necessary to facilitate testing at the earliest by enabling all qualified medical practitioners including, private practitioners, to prescribe COVlD-19 test to any individual fulfilling the criteria for testing according to ICMR guidelines,” the letter reads. 

On earlier occasions, Bharagava had maintained that testing numbers were enough and any further opening up would lead to indiscriminate testing. Test-track-treat is the main tool to contain the virus, the letter reads, now.

More than six months into the pandemic, the ministry, through this letter, asked states to finalise the rates of RT-PCR tests.

The ministry said the RT-PCR test is considered the gold standard but it may take a couple of days to give the result. In that case, antigen tests can be used, which are quick to give results and do not require a formal lab setting.

The ministry, nonetheless, also asked states to simultaneously better the contract tracing of the confirmed cases. “lt has been observed that in some states, delineation of containment zones and contact tracing has not been undertaken with the rigour and meticulousness that is required,” the letter reads. 

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