Millennium Post

24 hour-testing numbers nearly double

New Delhi: As the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 471 as of 8 pm on Monday and as India prepares itself for conducting a higher number of tests every day to arrest the spread of the pandemic, data provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) shows that testing figures had almost doubled on Monday, during when ICMR had tested 2,324 individuals, of which 56 came back positive for COVID-19. Comparatively, India had been testing much fewer individuals in the last three days.

In the 24 hours between 10 am on March 20 and 10 am on March 21, ICMR had tested 1,325 individuals for COVID-19. The following 24 hours saw a marginally lesser number of people being tested (1,298), of which 70 came back positive for COVID-19. And in the next 24 hours, till 10 am on Monday, 1,384 people were tested, of which 74 came back positive. In 72 hours, the rate of positive cases out of tested individuals had gone up from 4.9 per cent as of 10 am on March 20 to over 5.3 per cent as of 10 am on March 23. However, in the 10 hours between 10 am and 8 pm on Monday, the ICMR had tested 2,324 people for the virus.

In the last three days, the rate of total positive cases to total tested persons has jumped from 1.53 per cent to over 2.4 per cent. However, this rate stagnated at 2.4 per cent on Monday as ICMR released the total testing numbers as of 8 pm.

ICMR officials have said that while they are more than prepared for ramping up testing numbers with 111 government laboratories ready for tests and more private ones in the pipeline, they were waiting for states and UTs to send more samples. ICMR's efforts to check for community transmission of the virus also continue as the first batch of 826 random samples tested negative.

The ICMR had on Monday updated the testing criteria for SARS-CoV2 (the official name of the virus) to test anyone with symptoms irrespective of their contact or travel history.

Moreover, the government's efforts to enable private lab testing across the country have hit hurdles. While 12 private labs were approved in the last two days by the Centre to test for the virus, only two Indian testing kit manufacturers have been validated by the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune.

The guidelines for private testing mandate kits with either USFDA approval or European CE certification or both (in some cases) to test for COVID-19. One ICMR official said that this criterion was introduced as a stop-gap to provide time for the NIV in Pune to validate homegrown testing kits.

"While we validate Indian test kits, private labs can use test kits approved by the USFDA and European authorities," the official said.

As China has managed to control the pandemic after months of soaring cases and fatalities, several Chinese laboratories have been granted USFDA approval for their respective COVID-19 kits. As of Monday, the USFDA had approved COVID-19 test kits from two labs in China, three labs in South Korea, one in Germany and one in Singapore. However, getting the kits to India amid a global lockdown-like state remains a challenge. So far, India has been commissioning test kits from Germany and has asked for kits from the World Health Organisation as well. Several private labs in India have also reportedly raised concerns that their test kits would not be able to get USFDA or European approvals under current circumstances.

However, a senior ICMR official reiterated that Indian kit manufacturers would be able to apply for the required Indian approvals from the ICMR and the Drug Controller General of India, which would then be okayed for use in private laboratories testing for COVID-19 across India.

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