New Delhi: Reiterating that “test-track-treat” is the key strategy for early detection and containment of the pandemic, the Centre has urged the states and Union Territories (UTs) to take immediate steps to facilitate and ramp up testing. Citing under-utilisation of COVID lab facilities, it also advised states and UTs to enable all qualified medical practitioners, including private practitioners, to prescribe coronavirus test to any individual fulfilling the criteria for testing as per the ICMR guidelines which will prevent any delay. Also Read - Satish Shah Tested COVID-19 Positive in July, Was Admitted to Hospital, Now Under Home Quarantine

In a letter jointly written by Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan and ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava, it was pointed out that in some states and UTs, the capacity utilization of the testing labs, particularly the ones in private sector, is “grossly sub-optimal”. Also Read - Actor Natasha Suri Tests Positive For COVID-19, Under Home Quarantine

It urged them to take all possible steps to ensure full capacity utilization of all COVID-19 testing laboratories. Also Read - Vijayawada Fire Accident: Death Toll Rises to 10; Centre Assures Help to State Govt | 10 Points

They also pointed out that it has been observed that some states and UTs have mandated the need of a prescription from a government doctor for making an individual eligible to undergo COVID-19 test.

“In view of the increased load on government healthcare facilities, this mandatory requirement may at times pose an impediment for an individual to get tested and lead to unnecessary delays.

“At this juncture, it is absolutely necessary to facilitate testing at the earliest by enabling all qualified medical practitioners including private practitioners to prescribe COVID test to any individual fulfilling the criteria for testing as per ICMR guidelines,” they said in the letter.

ICMR has strongly recommended that laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance to the ICMR guidelines and state authorities must not restrict an individual from getting tested, as early testing will help in containing the virus and saving lives.

With the start of Unlock-2, focus will continue to be on saving lives and also protecting livelihood as more and more economic activities are expected to pick up gradually, they said.

In order to facilitate testing, states and UTs have also been advised to make efforts in ‘campaign mode’ by setting up camps/ using mobiles vans in high incidence areas to collect samples of all symptomatic individuals as well as their contacts, and get those samples tested by using rapid antigen tests.

They have been further advised to make it mandatory for all labs to upload the testing data on the ICMR database as well as report to state/ District/ City authorities for surveillance and contact tracing, the letter stated.

In addition to ramping up and facilitating testing, they have also been urged to pay attention to ‘contact tracing’ as it holds the key to containing the virus.

“lt has been observed that in some states, delineation of containment zones and contact tracing has not been undertaken with the rigour and meticulousness that is required. You make like to review this aspect at the earliest and take necessary corrective measures,” the letter highlighted.

India has reported 5,85,493 cases and 17,400 deaths, according to the Union Health Ministry.

(With agency inputs)