Amid the rising cases of Covid-19 and its highly contagious Omicron variant, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued fresh guidelines on who needs to get tested for the infection, and who doesn’t.
As per the top government medical body, asymptomatic individuals, and contacts of Covid patients do not need to be tested unless identified as “high-risk individuals” based on age or co-morbidities. The guidelines — The ICMR Advisory on Purposive Testing Strategy for Covid-19 — dated January 10, 2022 also mentioned that at-risk contacts of patients would be those above 60 years of age and individuals with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung or kidney disease, malignancy and obesity.
Advisory on Purposive Testing Strategy for COVID-19 in India (Version VII, dated 10th January 2022) @MoHFW_INDIA @DeptHealthRes @PIB_India @mygovindia @COVIDNewsByMIB #ICMRFIGHTSCOVID19 #IndiaFightsCOVID19 #CoronaUpdatesInIndia #COVID19 #Unite2FightCorona pic.twitter.com/0bFN4R5gZ4
— ICMR (@ICMRDELHI) January 10, 2022
It also stated that people undertaking “inter-state domestic travel” need not get tested.
Here are the detailed guidelines
People who need to be tested:
In community settings:
*Symptomatic (cough, fever, sore throat, loss of taste and/or smell, breathlessness and/or other respiratory symptoms) individuals.
*At-risk contacts of laboratory confirmed cases. (At-risk contacts are elderly (above 60 years of age) and individuals with co-morbidity such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung or kidney disease, malignancy, obesity, etc.)
*Individuals undertaking international travel (as per country-specific requirements).
*International travellers arriving at Indian airports/seaports/ports of entries as per laid down guidelines.
In hospital settings:
Testing may be undertaken as per discretion of the treating doctor with the following considerations:
*No emergency procedure (including surgeries and deliveries) should be delayed for lack of a test.
*Patients should not be referred to other facilities for lack of a testing facility. All arrangements should be made to collect and transfer samples to testing facilities, mapped to the health facility.
*Asymptomatic patients undergoing surgical/ non-surgical invasive procedures including pregnant women in/near labour who are hospitalised for delivery should not be tested unless warranted or symptoms develop.
People who need not be tested:
*Asymptomatic individuals in community settings.
*Contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19 unless identified as high risk based on age or comorbidities.
*Patients who stand discharged as per home isolation guidelines.
*Patients being discharged from a Covid-19 facility as per revised discharge policy.
*Individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel
Modes of testing
ICMR also stated that testing can be undertaken either through RT-PCR, True Nat, CBNAAT, CRISPR, RT-LAMP, Rapid Molecular Testing Systems or through Rapid Antigen Test (RAT). Home or Self Test/RAT and Molecular Test is to be considered confirmatory, without any repeat testing. Symptomatic individuals, testing negative on home/self-test or RAT should undertake RT-PCR test, as per the new guidelines of ICMR.
The ICMR advisory also suggested that the guidelines are for:
*Early detection of symptomatic cases for quick isolation and care.
*Early detection of infections in elderly (more than 60 years), and individuals with co-morbidities (diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung or kidney disease, malignancy, obesity etc) for quick care.
Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals called the avoidance of testing asymptomatic contacts of patients with no risk as a “good step”. “We have been stressing on this for a long time that there is no need to test asymptomatic contacts or travellers unnecessarily. This infection is now spreading very rapidly. Unnecessary testing puts a lot of pressure on laboratories. So, people who really need the test — who are symptomatic or who are high risk — are deprived of their reports for many hours, and sometimes many days. This will free up testing capacity for people who really need the test,” Dr Bajaj told indianexpress.com.
The ICMR Advisory on Purposive Testing Strategy for Covid-19 said the guidelines may be tweaked to suit individual state requirements, and tests may be undertaken as per discretion of the treating doctor with certain considerations.