As India enters last week of the 21-day lockdown due to novel coronavirus or COVID-19, the government is planning to massively push testing in the next few days, The Indian Express reported.
"This week, you can say, is the make-or-break week so far as the future course of the epidemic in India is concerned, whether we continue with the lockdown or not. The criticism has been that we did not test enough, but we have always maintained that if it (infection) was happening that much, the death toll would not be so low," the media quoted a government source as saying.
"Also, influenza-like illnesses across the country have remained flat. But to test that hypothesis, we need to increase testing. That is what we will do this week when we hope to get a definitive idea about the course of the disease," the source added.
Although the government is planning to scale up testing, the current testing protocol is likely to be continued. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, the current testing strategy(updated on March 20) is as follows:
*All symptomatic individuals who have undertaken international travel in the last 14 days.
*All symptomatic contacts of laboratory confirmed cases.
*All symptomatic health care workers.
*All hospitalised patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (fever AND cough and/or shortness of breath).
*Asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case should be tested once between day 5 and day 14 of coming in his/her contact.
Earlier, to ensure the faster diagnosis of possible coronavirus cases, ICMR had advised antibody tests in areas that are emerging as hotspots of COVID-19. This move will also help authorities save some time to contain the disease. The antibody test results will be available in 15-30 minutes compared to the results of PCR tests which take up to five hours.
India has at present tested 1,14,015 samples. The plan now is to double the number of tests every three-four days, so that about 40,000 tests can be done daily, the source said.
"The private labs have better mobility and reach than us because they are making money," the source added.
In Bhubaneswar and Noida, two high throughput testing machines have been pressed into service and twelve more have been ordered from Roche. These testing machines which can test 1,300-1,400 samples daily are expected to be delivered in about three weeks.
According to India COVID-19 Tracker, 5,356 confirmed cases have been reported as of Wednesday, April 8. Of this, there are 4,728 active cases, 468 people have recovered, and 160 died.