Private facilities will be roped into the efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic with the announcement they will be permitted to conduct coronavirus testing.
The decision was made by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. They have said they would permit privately-run laboratories deemed to be of “high quality” to test for coronavirus.
The Health Ministry has issued guidelines for notifying cases of COVID-19 by privately-run facilities. These guidelines stipulate that all hospitals, be they publicly- or privately-run, as well as medical officers and practitioners in the public and private sectors, must notify confirmed coronavirus cases to the relevant district surveillance unit.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has announced that, for the purpose of coronavirus testing, one million kits have been ordered. ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava has appealed for privately-run facilities that will conduct coronavirus testing to do so free of cost, also stating that “many private labs approached us saying they would want to serve the nation during this time, so we decided to take them on board.” To be eligible, labs must have three essential components of coronavirus testing kits from the ICMR: primers, probes, and reagents.
The eligibility criteria for coronavirus testing will be for individuals who are symptomatic of infection with the novel coronavirus after coming into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 or who, in the preceding fourteen days, have recorded a travel history abroad. “We don’t want to do indiscriminate testing,” explained R. Gangakhedkar, who heads the ICMR epidemiology unit in Delhi.
Reportedly, there are 72 coronavirus testing centres nationwide according to the ICMR. More are to come. India has recorded fresh cases and its first fatalities due to COVID-19 in recent weeks as the number of cases continues to rise worldwide. Multiple states and union territories have been affected. Worldwide, coronavirus cases now number in excess of 200,000.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has espoused the need to “test, test, test” and said to “fight a fire blindfolded” is not possible when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. “Test every suspected case,” he said. “If they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in close contact with up to two days before they developed symptoms, and test those people too.” Tedros added that 120 countries have received almost 1.5 million coronavirus testing kits from the WHO.