Private laboratories that are accredited by NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) will soon be roped in to test coronavirus samples, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava told the media on Tuesday. He added that by the end of this week, 49 more labs will also be conducting tests, in addition to the 72 functional ICMR laboratories that are currently conducting tests for coronavirus.
He also appealed to all private laboratories to offer COVID-19 diagnosis free of cost.
"We have 72 functional ICMR laboratories in government sector for testing and 49 more will be active by the month-end," he said.
Bhargava said that India was in stage 2 or local transmission of the virus.
"All asymptomatic patients who have taken international flights in the past 14 days should get tested as per current protocol if they develop symptoms," he said.
He also said that symptomatic people who come in close contact with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases must be tested, adding and all healthcare workers managing the respiratory condition of patients should be tested too if symptomatic.
"Private NABL accredited laboratories will soon be operationalised," Bhargava said.
ICMR was approached by several private players who want to contribute and talks are on with 51 National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited private laboratories.
At present only government labs are permitted to do the test and the Centre is making arrangements to nearly double its capacity to test for the respiratory ailment.
According to Health Ministry officials, around 60 accredited private laboratories are likely to be given permission to conduct the tests soon.
The number of COVID-19 cases meanwhile rose to 140 on Tuesday, including three deaths.