Coronavirus Outbreak India: Guidelines issued for private testing labs; Prices capped for COVID-19 tests

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Published: March 22, 2020 1:55:23 PM

Coronavirus: The number of positive cases of coronavirus has crossed 320 and five deaths have occurred in India.

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Coronavirus in India: As the number of cases of coronavirus rapidly increases in India, the apex body for biomedical research in India, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) allowed private laboratories to also conduct the screening and confirmation tests for COVID-19. Before this, the screening test could only be conducted at government testing sites and labs. The confirmation test for COVID-19 was only done at the ICMR’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. However, for a more efficient testing process, private laboratories were roped in. The ICMR has now issued certain guidelines for private testing laboratories, including the fees they can charge from the suspected patients for conducting the tests.

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Here are the guidelines that private laboratories have to follow:

  1. The ICMR stated that laboratories should, at this stage, only test those individuals who started showing symptoms with 14 days of having returned from an international destination, or symptomatic people who came in contact of a confirmed coronavirus patient, health care workers who are showing symptoms, hospitalised patients having severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), or any asymptomatic individual who was a direct and high-risk contact, ie, living in the same household as or was the health care worker of, a confirmed coronavirus patient.
  2. Private laboratories should prefer collecting the sample of a suspected case at the patient’s home so as to avoid the patient’s local travel.
  3. The disposal of biomedical waste should be undertaken as per National guidelines, and for disposing of samples, swabs should be discarded in a biohazard bag containing either 2% Lyzol or 5% freshly prepared hypochlorite solution.
  4. The suspect patient’s Government ID bearing the current address and contact details of the person should be collected while collecting the sample.
  5. The samples that the private labs find to be positive for COVID-19 have to be sent to the ICMR-NIV in Pune in accordance with the biosafety norms of the ICMR. Meanwhile, negative samples should be destroyed within a week of their collection. The labs cannot share the samples with any other organisation for any purpose.
  6. In order to ensure that no patient is steeply overcharged for the testing, the ICMR has stated that the cost of getting tested should not exceed Rs 4,500. Giving the break up, the ICMR stated that a maximum of Rs 1,500 could be for the screening test of suspected patients and a cap of Rs 3,000 would be placed for the confirmatory test. The ICMR further stated that while the above figures are the maximum a lab can charge, they would encourage all private laboratories to undertake free or subsidised testing during the national public health emergency.

The number of positive cases of coronavirus has reached 324 and five deaths have occurred in India.

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