NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry has urged all States and Union Territories (UTs) to mandatorily retest all symptomatic negative cases of Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) through gold-standard RT-PCR tests to diagnose COVID-19.
The Health Ministry noted that in several large states, symptomatic negative cases tested by antigen tests were not being followed up by RT-PCR testing.
"The aim of States and UTs is to ensure that no potentially positive case is missed out. The Union Health Ministry and ICMR have jointly written to all the States/UTs and directed them to ensure that all symptomatic negative cases of RAT should be mandatorily retested using the gold standard RT-PCR test," a senior Health Ministry official said.
The guidelines of ICMR, as well as the Union Health Ministry, clearly state that the following two specific categories of persons must necessarily be retested through RT-PCR tests: (i) all symptomatic (fever or cough or breathlessness) negative cases of antigen tests. (ii) Asymptomatic negative cases of RAT that develop symptoms within 2 to 3 days of being tested negative.
"This is necessary to ensure that such symptomatic negative cases do not remain untested and do not spread the disease among their contacts. This will also ensure early detection and isolation/hospitalization of such false negatives. It has also been reiterated in the joint letter that while the RAT is being used to increase access and availability of testing in the field, RT-PCR remains the gold standard of COVID tests," said the official. The Centre has also urged the States/UTs to urgently establish a monitoring mechanism in every district (a designated officer or a team) and at the State level to follow up such cases.
These teams shall analyse details of RAT conducted on a daily basis in the Districts and State and ensure that there are no delays in retesting of all symptomatic negative cases, it said.
"State authorities have also been advised to undertake an analysis on a regular basis to monitor the incidence of positives during the RT-PCR tests conducted as a follow-up," said the government official. (ANI)