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Remove RT-PCR test requirement for inter-state travel: ICMR in new advisory on COVID testing

NEW DELHI: Highlighting that there is unprecedented burden on testing infrastructure in the country in the wake of a huge Covid19 second wave, the ICMR on Tuesday issued a fresh advisory to states on optimizing resources which include doing away with RT-PCR tests before interstate travels.

“The need for RT-PCR test in healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories,” said the ICMR in the latest advisory for testing in the second wave.

Several states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka insist on a RT-PCR negative before allowing any traveller in.

The agency also said that RT-PCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by rapid antigen test or RT-PCR.

At present, as per the ICMR, India has a total of 2506 molecular testing laboratories including RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and other platforms and the total daily national testing capacity is close to 15 lakh tests considering a three-shift operationalization of the existing laboratory network.

It conceded that the laboratories are facing challenges to meet the expected testing target due to an extraordinary amount of case load and the staff getting infected with Covid-19.

“In view of this situation, it is imperative to optimize the RT-PCR testing and simultaneously increase the access and availability of testing to all citizens of the country,” theory and health care settings.

To meet the overwhelming testing demand, it will be prudent to upscale testing using RAT, said the health research body adding that this test can be carried out at government as well as private hospitals, RWA offices, schools, colleges and community centres.

It has also emphasised that drive-through RAT testing facilities may be created at convenient locations as identified by local administration.

ICMR also said that the vaccination status of all individuals tested for Covid-19 must be entered into the sample referral form in the RT-PCR app both for individuals tested by RT-PCR and RAT. “This information is of critical importance,” said the guidelines.

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