The Union Health Ministry has also allowed ‘Testing on Demand’ for COVID-19 and gave more flexibility to the State authorities to facilitate enhanced ease of testing.
The Ministry further noted that any emergency procedure, including deliveries, should not be delayed for lack of tests, and pregnant women should not be referred for a lack of testing facility.
“For the first time, along with more simplified modalities, the updated guidelines provide for ‘on demand’ testing in order to ensure higher levels of testing. These changes have been brought in on the recommendations of the National Task Force on COVID-19. A totally new section, “Testing on Demand”, is added in the advisory which, for all practical purposes, does away with prescription by a registered medical practitioner although the State governments have the freedom to decide on the simplified modalities,” a statement from the Ministry indicated.
As per the new addition, testing will be provided to all individuals undertaking travel to countries/Indian States mandating a negative COVID-19 test at the point of entry and also to all individuals who wish to get themselves tested. Tracking and contact tracing mechanisms should be ensured by the testing laboratories by notifying the public health authorities.
Home quarantine for 14 days is recommended for all individuals before undergoing elective surgery to minimize the chances of infection before the procedure. The Ministry states that no emergency procedure (including deliveries) should be delayed for lack of test. However, samples could be sent for testing under specific conditions.
“Pregnant women should not be referred for lack of testing facility. All arrangements should be made to collect and transfer samples to testing facilities. Mothers, who test positive for COVID-19, should be advised to wear a mask and undertake frequent hand-washing while handling their baby for 14 days. They should also be advised on breast cleaning before feeding the neonate. These measures are likely to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to their babies,” the statement said.
The advisory elaborates on the tests that should be used for various settings, including routine surveillance in containment zones and screening at points of entry, routine surveillance in the non-containment areas, and in-hospital settings among others.
In hospital settings, RT-PCR or TrueNat or CBNAAT, RAT – can be used for patients of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), all symptomatic (ILI symptoms) patients presenting in a healthcare setting, asymptomatic high-risk patients who are hospitalized or seeking immediate hospitalization such as immune-compromised individuals, patients diagnosed with malignant disease, transplant patients, patients with chronic co-morbidities, etc. For routine surveillance in non-containment areas, all symptomatic (ILI symptoms) individuals with a history of international travel in the last 14 days are to be tested among others, the statement added.