NEW DELHI: In order to ramp up the Covid-19 testing capacity, the government has decided to allow non-accredited private labs - who are now seeking accreditation - to carry out the diagnostic tests for the viral disease.
With national test positivity rate reaching above 10 - against the WHO recommended guideline that this figure should be under 5 in order to contain the outbreak - low testing in many areas has been a major concern.
Dr. Nivedita Gupta, a senior scientist with the Indian Council of Medical Research on Thursday said that private labs have now been allowed to apply for National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accreditation and in parallel submit their application to the council to carry out Covid-19 tests.
"Private labs can complete accreditation in one month. As of today, a total of 1,132 testing labs are operational," she said.
She also said that more than 2.6 lakh samples are being tested for Covid-19 per day now.
"The number of tests has increased on average. We are testing more than 2.6 lakh of samples per day. TrueNat and CBNAAT tests too have been deployed recently, in addition to RT-PCR and we hope to see a further rise by the use of the antigen test,” Gupta added.
Rajesh Bhushan, Officer on Special Duty in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that India now has the capacity to manufacture 3 lakh rapid antigen tests per day, and 10 companies have approached the ICMR for test validation.
Antigen tests are quick, cheaper and point of care tests but the ones validated in India have low sensitivity--or low reliability to detect true positives - which means that they have to be used in combination with RTPCR tests, considered the gold standard for detecting viral presence in those infected.
As of now the antigen test by only one company has been permitted in India and is being used in containment areas and hospitals across states.
Bhushan, meanwhile, added that despite a population of 1.3 billion people, India has been able to manage Covid-19 relatively well and the cases per million of the population in the country remain among the lowest in the world.
The official added that the country has 15 deaths per million population whereas there are countries with this figure 40 times higher than India.
"Today we have 538 cases per million population as per the WHO report. The per million population in some countries are at least 16-17 times more than what it is in India,” he said. “We have 15 deaths per million population whereas we have countries where it is 40 times as much.”
Bhushan added that the country has managed to keep the number of active caseloads under control.
The briefing was done by the ministry on a day the country reported the highest single-day spike of 24,879 positive cases and 487 deaths taking the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country to 7,67,296.