The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has asked all states and Union territories to approve government and private facilities for conducting rapid antigen testing for COVID-19.
In a letter to Chief Secretaries, the medical research body has also directed that such testing data be uploaded on the ICMR portal so that all positive cases are brought to the attention of authorities for isolation, quarantine or treatment.
To ensure that testing is further enhanced and reporting of the same is done seamlessly during the COVID-19 pandemic, ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava in a letter asked all states and UTs to apply for obtaining login credentials for data entry into the ICMR portal.
Bhargava said ICMR has been receiving multiple requests from various public sector units, small private and government facilities, temples, etc for initiating rapid antigen testing.
"With the use of antigen tests, more and more tests are being carried out. lt is absolutely necessary that all such testing data is uploaded on the ICMR database and all positive cases are brought to the attention of district/ municipal authorities for isolation/ quarantine/ treatment, as the case may be," Bhargava said in his letter to the Chief Secretaries.
To provide safe healthcare services, all government hospitals, labs as well as all private NABH/NABL hospitals and labs may initiate antigen testing and also apply for obtaining login credentials for data entry into the ICMR portal, he said.
In an effort to facilitate and further liberalize testing, ICMR has generated five common login credentials for each district of a state and UT, which may be shared with all government and private facilities selected for antigen testing.
"You may nominate a nodal person from your state and UT, who could contact the ICMR team for obtaining login credentials," the letter stated.
"Respective state and UT governments should identify/ approve all government and private facilities who would be providing COVID-19 diagnosis through antigen-based assays. The common login credentials should be shared with all government and private facilities approved by the state," the letter said.
Bhargava said individual organizations should not separately approach ICMR now for obtaining logins for antigen testing. However, ICMR or mentor institutes will continue to review and approve all applications for RT-PCR based testing, he said in the letter.
The letter has asked states to ensure that all the antigen testing points are appropriately linked with RT-PCR facility, where symptomatic negatives will be tested.
Appreciating the efforts of the state and UT governments for scaling up testing for detecting coronavirus, Bhargava said this combined effort has led to a situation wherein every day more than 3.20 lakh tests are carried out in the country and in all more than one crore tests have been done so far.
"The key strategy to save lives and protect livelihoods remains 'tests, track, treat'. Our continuous endeavour is to increase testing capacity and provide more and more access to people for testing. ICMR recently approved a point-of-care rapid antigen test for diagnosis of COVID-19, in addition to the already existing molecular diagnostic tools," he said in the letter.
Antigen test is a promising tool for quick diagnosis of COVID-19. ICMR has advised the use of this test for quick detection of COVID-19 patients in containment zones and hospitals.
In addition, ICMR has invited researchers/ entrepreneurs to come up with such testing kits which are accurate and useful. Efforts are being made to validate such kits and make multiple options available for use.