NEW DELHI: Amid demands for greater access to testing for the deadly coronavirus, the government on Tuesday allowed high quality or accredited private labs to offer the service if they follow its testing protocols. The Indian Council for Medical Research, however, urged private labs to offer the test to the needy for free. As of now, only government laboratories are conducting the test for suspected COVID-19 samples free of cost.
“Some private laboratories had approached us showing their willingness to help the government and we have given in-principle approval to do so,” said ICMR director general Dr Balram Bhargava. When asked whether the government is thinking of putting a price cap for the test, he said he will appeal to the private labs to do the tests for free.
For roping in private labs, details are being worked out in consultation with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the World Health Organisation. Any individual in direct physical contact with a positive case or having visited a country with high viral risk in the last 14 days should go in for home quarantine for a fortnight. If during quarantine the person has fever, cough or difficulty in breathing, he/she must call the government helpline for testing.
On the positive side, of the nearly 1,000 samples collected from random hospitalised patients for acute respiratory issues, results of about 50% are in and they all tested negative. “This implies that India has not reached the community transmission stage yet,” said ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava. The ICMR Director General said that the comments made by World Health Organisation director general Dr Tedros edros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to do extensive testing for novel coronavirus will apply on countries and regions seeing huge surge in cases, but will be “premature” for India which has not reached community transmission stage yet.
Minister in isolation
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan has placed himself in isolation after a doctor of a medical institute he visited in Kerala tested positive for coronavirus. In all, 76 staff of the hospital are under self quarantine. The hospital put off all surgeries