NEW DELHI: Amid alarmingly growing Covid-19 positivity rate in certain parts of the country, the chorus by epidemiologists and clinicians is growing for expanding the testing criteria and allowing doctors to decide the ones who should be tested.
The demands by the experts follow a statement by the Indian Medical Association, the largest body of private doctors in the country, which said that RTPCR and TRUNAAT tests, the two tests being used for diagnosing Covid-19 in India, should be available on a prescription by all the registered medical practitioners.
Under the guidelines by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), only symptomatic patients with a history of international travel, the high-risk contacts of positive cases with symptoms, healthcare workers with symptoms, hospitalised patients of severe acute respiratory illness and those in red zone areas with influenza-like illnesses should be tested for Covid-19.
The experts, however, said that its simply not enough when positivity rate across the country, and especially in states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Haryana among others is rapidly growing.
According to the National Institute of Epidemiology figures, Delhi now has the highest positivity rate of over 23 per cent — which means that 23 of 100 people getting tested for Covid-19 are being found to be positive but Delhi government has been in news for asking hospitals and laboratories to not test people with “mild symptoms”.
In Maharashtra, which is now at the second spot in terms of positivity rate, the figure is little above 20 while for India, this rate has grown to 7 within a few days.
“This is the time to expand testing criteria, not restrict them as fast-growing positivity rate can be disastrous,” said Dr Anupam Singh, an infectious disease expert from Ghaziabad.
“It's also important for the authorities to allow doctors to test every patient undergoing a life-saving procedure in hospitals as it will help both patients and doctors,” he said.
In the country so far, 49,16, 116 samples have been tested and the average daily number of test beings conducted for the last few days is about 1.4 lakh but experts feel that it's grossly inadequate.
Dr. P K Tyagi, an epidemiologist in Faridabad pointed out that as now, it has been well established that not only fever, cough, and breathlessness but the loss of smell and taste, upset stomach among others too can be associated with Covid-19, ICMR should revise its testing advisory.
“There could be concern related to the availability of testing kits but that should be addressed in order to contain the outbreak,” he stressed.
Some others rued that there seemed to be too much bureaucratic control on Covid-19 related decision making in the country.
“It is a sad commentary on the running of bodies like ICMR and the National Centre for Disease Control where scientific decisions are being driven by bureaucrats,” said Dr S P Kalantri, medical superintendent of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Wardha.
“As we are approaching the rainy season, there would be flood of fever patients in hospitals across India. Unless the proper diagnostic test is done on patients to detect whether it is dengue, malaria, typhoid or Covid-19 how can a doctor establish the cause of fever?” he asked.
“And since such patients won’t fall in the categories prescribed by the ICMR, such patients should not be tested?”