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Pvt labs with kits okayed by EU, USFDA can test for corona

Coronavirus testing labs

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In News:

  • Close to one billion people worldwide were confined to their homes on 21st March as the global COVID-19 death toll went past 12,000 and U.S. States rolled out lockdown measures already imposed across various parts of Europe.
  • An estimated 900 million people are now confined to their homes in 35 countries around the world — including 600 million restricted by compulsory government lockdown orders.
  • The pandemic has had a significant impact on lives across the planet, restricting movement, shutting schools and forcing millions to work from home.

Status across the world:

  • Italy reported its worst single day death toll on 20th March, adding another 627 fatalities and taking its reported total to 4,032 despite efforts to curb the spread.
  • The nation of 60 million now accounts for 36% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths and its death rate of 8.6% among confirmed infections is significantly higher than that in most other countries.
  • France, Italy, Spain and other European countries have ordered people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, while Australia told citizens to cancel domestic travel plans.
  • The coronavirus has infected more than 1,000 across Africa too, where healthcare systems are limited and social distancing measures — like the ones being adopted in North America and Europe — are difficult in crowded cities.
  • The Middle East also remains on high alert, where Iran — which suffered a major outbreak — reporting 123 new deaths on 21st March. However, the Islamic Republic has refused to join the rest of the world in imposing heavy restrictions.

No community transmission in India:

  • As India prepared for a nationwide 14-hour lockdown on 22nd March to break the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Centre said there was no evidence of community transmission yet in the country.
  • It further informed that currently, India has witnessed cases of COVID-19 mostly related to travel and local transmission from imported cases to their immediate contacts.
  • Further, authorities are also in the process of tracing 7,000 people who have come in contact with the affected persons.

Coronavirus testing labs
Coronavirus testing labs

Testing allowed in private labs: Coronavirus testing labs

  • The government has decided that private laboratories with Covid-19 testing kits approved by the US Food & Drug Administration (US FDA) or European CE-certified can start testing suspected cases, significantly adding to the scope and numbers of persons who are being tested.
  • The lab has to be accredited with NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories).
  • The cost of such tests should not exceed Rs 4,500, including Rs 1,500 as screening test and Rs 3,000 for confirmation test. However, ICMR has urged labs to conduct free tests.
  • So far, government labs had carried out the tests and even this number has risen to 111, an increase from some 70-odd that were involved in testing for Covid-19 till a few days ago.

Testing beyond patients of Contact and Travel History:

  • The government announced a major expansion of testing to include all hospitalized patients with severe acute respiratory illness, including pneumonia, even if they don’t have any history of travel to an affected country or contact with a patient.
  • Under the expanded testing protocol, asymptomatic (without any symptoms) direct, high-risk contacts of confirmed cases should also be tested once between day 5-14 of coming in contact.
  • This is a big change from the earlier strategy, under which testing was limited to only symptomatic people with travel or contact history and symptomatic health workers with contact history.
  • A test can only be done if a qualified physician has prescribed it, with appropriate biosafety precautions and home collection of samples.
  • Expanding the testing protocol to include hospitalized patients with severe acute respiratory illness is in line with the evolving strategy to be on the lookout for the stage of community transmission of the coronavirus.

Way Ahead:

  • While the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are the hardest hit by the virus, the WHO warned that young people were also vulnerable and they should take adequate precautions and follow the guidelines.
  • Critical care training is being imparted to 1,000 hospitals across the country and State health centers are scheduled to take part in a mock drill, on preparing for ventilator use and advanced care to patients.
  • The government also issued an advisory to social media platforms, urging them to initiate awareness campaigns and not to upload or circulate any false news/misinformation concerning coronavirus which are likely to create panic among public and disturb the public order and social tranquility.

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