Coronavirus test: No signs of community transmission; ICMR orders 1 million more test kits to ramp up screening

Mayank Kumar
She further said that India currently has 1.5 lakh test kits and has ordered 1 million more test kits to combat the rise in the number of suspected cases of Covid-19. (Reuters image)

Coronavirus outbreak: No doubts about India’s testing capacity in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak! With India battling with the Coronavirus pandemic and has been quite successful, there have been questions linked to its testing capacity. Nivedita Gupta, a senior scientist in charge of viral diseases at the Indian Council for Medical Research, told IE that India is well equipped enough to handle the rising number of Coronavirus suspects in the country and that India has the testing capacity close to 6,000 tests per day. She further said that India currently has 1.5 lakh test kits and has ordered 1 million more test kits to combat the rise in the number of suspected cases of Covid-19. The ICRM scientist also raised a valid concern that in case community transmission starts to take place, India will have to fight a long battle against the virus for which it is quite prepared to do, in her view. Later on March 17, ICMR officially ruled out community transmission, stating that all 500 samples it had examined, tested negative for Covid-19.

On the issue of integrating private labs into the system for testing suspects of Covid-19, she said that the government has initiated a dialogue with the private labs and they could be in within a week in the country’s fight against Coronavirus in India. She also stated that the government has included health workers for the test as well. The ICMR is now testing at each of its 51 testing sites.

The ICMR sites are testing 10 samples every week of patients who are not very sick but have underlying diseases such as severe/acute respiratory illness, pneumonia and influenza-like diseases. However, the government has not amended the inclusion criteria for testing but also emphasized the goal of not undermining community transmission. She added that if people will be tested positive in the labs, it will change the government's strategy of testing altogether and asymptomatic people also will have to undergo testing to rule out the Covid-19.

Highlighting the government's strategy of surveillance, the ICMR scientist told IE that aggressive, door-to-door testing will be carried out if the ICMR finds the case of community transmission like it did in Jaipur when the Zika virus outbreak had taken place. She ruled out that out for now, citing that such measures are not required in the absence of any evidence suggesting community transmission of the Coronavirus.

Referring to China, she pointed out to IE that China has adopted the same model for testing its suspected citizens whereas the UK and the US have undertested their citizens for the Coronavirus. She blamed the lack of free testing in the US as the reason behind under-testing. She also said that South Korea has included all citizens, including asymptomatic for testing. Notably, South Korea has been quite successful in combating the disease after the virus had started making inroads into the country.

Talking to IE about the general perception that Indians are more immune to situations like these as they are exposed to different genes of Viruses, she said that there is unavailability of data to back such hypothesis.