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ICMR removes mandatory ‘RT-PCR test’ for healthy individuals travelling inter-state

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Indian Medical Council of Research (ICMR) on Wednesday released a new set of guidelines for testing against the Coronavirus disease amid the exponential growth in the infection rate. Under this fresh guidelines, the apex medical body suggested the removal of mandatory RT-PCR test for healthy people travelling in the country.

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“The need of RT-PCR test [for] healthy individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel may be completely removed,” said ICMR in the advisory. All asymptomatic domestic travellers must follow Covid-19 protocols, it added.

Notably, the RT-PCR tests are considered more reliable than the rapid antigen tests and until now, people travelling in the country were required to produce negative RT-PCR report to cross the state borders.

ICMR also advised skipping the RT-PCR test if a Covid-19 patient has completed 10 days of quarantine and did not report fever in the last three days. “RT PCR test must not be repeated in any individual who has tested positive once either by RAT or RT PCR,” it also said.

The changed guidelines come as hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and shortage of beds, ventilators and medical oxygen cylinders have pushed the health care system to crumble. There is almost a waiting of 7-days if a person is trying to get the Covid-19 test done at their home.

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In new guidelines, ICMR also talked about reducing RT-PCR tests to take the load off the existing laboratories. While ICMR is counting on more reliable new-generation Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits, if the tests end up being as inaccurate as the previous generation of RATs, they could artificially lower Covid-19 case numbers, and potentially create undiagnosed super-spreaders.

India’s total virus caseload since the start of the pandemic surged past 20 million with more than 350,000 new cases reported on Wednesday and 3,780 more deaths. However, the number of new infections has dipped from a peak of 402,000 last week, raising hopes that the worst of the devastating wave may have passed.

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