ICMR scales up testing capacity as COVID-19 cases surge

New Delhi: 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.

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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.

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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.

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