New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Tuesday said private NABL-accredited laboratories will soon be allowed to conduct tests for COVID-19 to enhance capacity for diagnosis and detection amid rising novel coronavirus cases in the country.
ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said the apex health research body of India has activated more laboratories to test for COVID-19 and revised the testing criteria.
"ICMR has been approached by several private players who want to contribute and talks are on with 51 National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited private laboratories to understand the modalities of increasing access to the test in the endeavour to prepare for future," he said.
He also appealed to all private laboratories to offer COVID-19 diagnosis free of cost.
The ICMR has equipped 72 of its laboratories to test for the pandemic disease. In addition to these labs, 49 more under organisations like Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, Department of Biotechnology, and Defence Research, Development Organisation would be equipped to test for coronavirus by end of this week, Bhargava said.
The ICMR will also be setting up two testing locations (NCR and Bhubaneswar) for high throughput diagnostic systems for exponentially increasing rapid diagnosing of the respiratory ailment.
These systems can test up to 1400 samples daily, he said.
The ICMR has also revised the testing criteria for COVID-19 under which an individual who had come in direct close physical contact of laboratory confirmed positive case, has a history of travel in last 14 days to high risk COVID-19 affected countries and develops symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing should immediately contact the health ministry's helpline for testing.
"In addition to these conditions, if a healthcare worker managing respiratory distress/severe acute respiratory illness shows symptoms of acute respiratory illness they should get a laboratory test for COVID-19.
"If these cases are tested positive, then they should be isolated and treated as per the standard protocols," Bhargava said.
"We at ICMR are regularly monitoring for community transmissions. Our labs are looking at random samples of patients who suffer from influenza like illnesses/ severe acute," he said, adding so far 500 samples have been tested and they have come out negative.