India revises RT-PCR Covid test guidelines as caseloads skyrocket

Kolkata, India: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued new does and don't for RT-PCR Covid testing, as diagnostic centers and the nation's healthcare system struggle to process the influx of testing demand and number of patients requiring the same. 

Aimed at optimizing the RTPCR testing and simultaneously increasing the access and availability of testing to all citizens of the country, the apex health body has issued new guidelines for testing, and who can get it done. 

ICMR says the 'RT-PCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RTPCR.'

Currently, states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, and West Bengal need RT-PCR negative reports before allowing inbound travelers.

Healthcare staff and workforce in Indian laboratories are currently at a shortfall as the virus grips the nation, infecting more people than anywhere else in the world. 


The health body also stated that 'no testing is required for COVID-19 recovered individuals at the time of hospital discharge in accordance with the discharge policy of MoH&FW.'

It also states that any 'healthy individual undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed to reduce the load on laboratories.'

The guidelines suggest 'non-essential travel and interstate travel of symptomatic individuals (COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms) should be essentially avoided to reduce the risk of infection.'

ICMR also encouraged states to augment RTPCR testing through mobile systems. 

The guidelines call for ramping up the RAT tests that have a quick turnaround time of 15-30 minutes. 

As per the guidelines, the RAT may be allowed at all available Government and private healthcare facilities. 

Authorities are encouraged to set up dedicated RAT booths in cities, towns, and villages to offer to test to people.

Testing booths may be set up at multiple locations including healthcare facilities, RWA, offices, schools, colleges, community centers, and other available vacant spaces. 

The ICRM also suggests that the booths should be 'operational on a 24X7 basis to improve access and availability of testing.'

'Drive-through RAT testing facilities may be created at convenient locations as identified by the local administration. Stringent measures must be instituted to avoid overcrowding at RAT testing facilities," the ICMR said. 

For both RTPCR and RAT tests, the vaccination status of all individuals tested for COVID-19 must be entered into the Sample Referral Form (SRF) in the RTPCR app, as per the guidelines. 

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