ICMR scales up testing capacity as Covid-19 cases surge

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New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), here on Monday, allowed rapid antibody-based blood tests for coronavirus, scaling up its capacity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ICMR has validated and recommended 7 such test kits for use. These tests will be conducted in areas reporting clusters (containment zone) and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centres, as they are not suitable to diagnose live Covid-19 infections.
It has also procured 10 lakh reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits for diagnosis purposes, and set up 7 depots for uninterrupted supply of reagents across the nation for efficient distribution to government testing laboratories.
The ICMR has approved over 200 labs, both public and private, for Covid-19 testing through RT-PCR kits.
It has forecasted requirement for testing equipment, kits and manpower and is procuring, allocating and distributing them through its network of labs. It’s expecting 5 lakh antibody test kits in a day or two.
The apex body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research is also considering to scale up interventions, like moving to 24×7 working model at existing labs, coordinating with states to increase manpower for various functions, including data entry, re-deploying automated and manual RT-PCR machines to aid Covid-19 testing efforts, and optimising in-lab processes, such as RNA extraction to reduce turnaround time between sample receipt and testing.
The ICMR said till April 6, it had tested 96,264 samples. Of this, 3,718 were found positive for SARS-CoV-2.
A total of 136 government and 56 private laboratories are engaged in the testing procedure. They have 18,000 tests a day capacity. Also, two high throughput machine Cobass6800 have been made functional, which can test 1,400 samples at a time.