Health Ministry directs States to enhance testing

Cautioning that overall testing as well as the proportion of RT-PCR tests have declined in some States, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on November 28 directed that “ample testing infrastructure need to be operationalised to tackle any surge due to Omicron, the mutated Covid virus”.
The Ministry has written to State Governments stating that in the absence of sufficient testing, it is extremely difficult to determine the true level of infection spread.
“States must strengthen the testing infrastructure and strictly implement the testing guidelines,” said Mr. Bhushan.
He added that as a proactive step, the Central Government has already placed countries where this Variant of Concern (VoC) has been found in the category of ‘At-Risk’ countries for additional follow-up measures of international travellers coming into lndia from these countries.
The Ministry also said that in view of the possible threat that this VoC can pose to the Nation, it is imperative that the intensive containment, active surveillance, increased coverage of vaccination and Covid-appropriate behaviour must be enforced in the field in a very proactive manner to effectively manage this VoC.
The letter added that it’s essential that the disease surveillance network in the country is geared up for rigorous follow up of all international travellers from all countries especially countries designated as “At-Risk”.
The Ministry added that there is already a reporting mechanism for obtaining past travel details of passengers coming through international flights and said that this should be reviewed and the protocol provided by Health Ministry should be strictly ensured including testing on disembarkation of international travellers coming from “At-Risk” Countries.
“All positive samples for genome sequencing should be sent to INSACOG Labs in a prompt manner,” the letter said.
Emphasising the need to monitor hotspots, the Ministry said that in all “hotspots”, saturation testing and sending of positive samples quickly for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG labs must be ensured in collaboration with Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). States have also been asked to keep a close check on the emerging trend of cases and the positivity in an area and quickly delineate hotspots for effective containment.
Instructing that States should aim at achieving positivity rate below 5% while focusing on increasing the number of tests and share of RT-PCR tests to aid in early identification the Ministry said that having adequate availability of health facilities across the State is essential-to ensure that there are no delays in providing care.
“Trained human resources, infrastructure, logistics and procurement should be planned and strengthened considering the geographical spread of the pandemic and there shall be no compromise in providing prompt quality treatment to the patients. States are requested to optimally utilize the financial support provided by Central Government,” added the letter.
The Ministry has also asked States to hold regular peer briefing to help promote Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination. The Hindu