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Centre revises testing strategy in bid to curb spread of COVID-19

The surge in the number of cases on Friday indicated a possible advancement to the third or community stage of transmission, even though the government is yet to pronounce it on record.

Published: 21st March 2020 01:11 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd March 2020 11:20 AM   |  A+A-

India has so far witnessed cases of COVID-19 mostly related to travel and local transmission from imported cases.

India has so far witnessed cases of COVID-19 mostly related to travel and local transmission from imported cases. (Photo | Sathya Keerthi, EPS)

NEW DELHI: In a bid to fight the spread of COVID-19, the government has now decided to allow even asymptomatic contacts of those who tested positive for the virus to get tested within 5-14 days after the last contact with the infected person.

The surge in the number of cases on Friday indicated a possible advancement to the third or community stage of transmission, even though the government is yet to pronounce it on record.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are revising our testing strategy as per the changing situation,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary (health) in a press briefing on Saturday.

The revised testing strategy by the Indian Council for Medical Research under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that all hospitalized patients with severe acute respiratory illness (fever and cough and/or shortness of breath) and asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case should be tested once between day 5 and day 14 of coming in his or her contact.

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The move comes following the recommendation by a 21-member special task force under Niti Aayog member (health) Dr V K Paul that has been constituted to prepare a strategy to combat the public health crisis.

The move has been welcomed by public health experts who also said it is a step in the right direction but is still short of being sufficient and advocated that every individual with symptoms of coronavirus infection -- irrespective of their travel or contact history -- should be allowed to get tested so that they can be isolated and treated promptly. 

“That's the only possible way to prevent a rapid surge in the new cases and keep the outbreak limited in clusters,” said T Sundararaman, public health specialist and former director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre.

He added that there is a “thin line between local transmission and community transmission” and the government should now treat it as the later stage of the outbreak.

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On Friday, in a directive to hospitals across the country, the ICMR had said that all health establishments—public and private—should immediately notify every suspected COVID 19 or pneumonia cases to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and the National Centre for Communicable Disease so that these patients could be tested for possible infection.

Meanwhile, the government also fixed the prices of two fly and three fly masks and hand sanitisers at Rs 8, Rs 10 and Rs 100 (for 200 ml) respectively.

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