With the number of COVID-19 cases in India touching 258 on Friday, the testing criteria has been further widened. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Friday revised their testing strategy for COVID-19 in India, expanding it to include individuals who are asymptomatic but have had direct/high-risk contact with a confirmed case. The rules state these asymptomatic high-risk individuals should be tested once between day 5 and day 14 of coming into contact with a COVID-19 patient. This is because the coronavirus has an incubation period of between two to 14 days.
The new guidelines also include those hospitalised with severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) - the symptoms being fever and cough and/or shortness of breath.
Earlier only those individuals who were symptomatic and had travel history or contact history with a confirmed case were being tested.
All asymptomatic individuals who have undertaken travel in the last 14 days will have to stay in home quarantine. They will be tested only if they become symptomatic (fever, cough, difficulty in breathing). The guidelines also mandate that family members of a COVID-19 patient be home quarantined.
All symptomatic contacts of laboratory confirmed cases will be tested, the testing criterion also includes all symptomatic health care workers.
The ICMR’s guidelines come hours after the Union Ministry’s advisory to hospitals, which stated that pneumonia patients will also be tested for COVID-19 across India/ the new rules will be in effect till March 31 and may be revised.
Public health experts in India have been demanding that the testing criteria be expanded so to be able to detect community transmission of the coronavirus. The Indian government, however, has maintained that there is no community transmission of the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier declared coronavirus a pandemic a global pandemic that has spread across 182 countries. The infection is spread through droplets of an infected patient generated by coughing and sneezing or through prolonged contact with infected patients.
Presently India has witnessed 258 COVID-19 cases, as of Saturday morning, mostly related to those with international travel history or contact with a COVID-19 case.