New Delhi: Shifting from its earlier strategy of less number of tests, India is gearing up to conduct mass Covid-19 tests. So far, the country has been conducting less than 20,000 tests a day.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is exploring all possible ways which can help the country in scaling up Covid-19 testing capacity to 1 lakh individuals by the end of this month. The target of number of tests has been set after scientifically calculating the worst-case scenario of the coronavirus spread.

As per experts, to understand the spread of Covid-19 across the country and to mitigate the crisis, the country needs to scale up its testing process.

Dr Lokesh Sharma of the ICMR told The Sunday Guardian: “We are working on the possibilities that can help the ICMR scale up the Covid-19 testing capacity. We have already channelised many strategies to mitigate the virus crisis and scaling up the testing capacity is one of them.”

In terms of the testing data available as on 6 April 2020, Maharashtra with 17,563 samples collection is on the top. The state is one of the hotspots of the virus.

With 14,274, Rajasthan is ranked second on the higher number of test-conducting states, while Kerala with 10,716 samples and Delhi with 8,464 samples collection are respectively on the third and fourth ranks in conducting a higher number of tests.

The Covid-19 crisis has led to a nationwide lockdown which has stalled economic activities in the country and as per experts, there is a need to take many calibrated steps not to only ensure some economic activities, but also to prevent health risk of the masses.

However, the nature of the pandemic is dynamic and, therefore, the prediction of Covid-19 spread is difficult, but scientists are in agreement that at least 5-6 lakh tests might give them the insight to make some kind of prediction. Also, a higher number of tests will allow the government to take calibrated measures for opening of economic activities.

Keeping all of this in mind, the ICMR has allowed the use of the rapid antibody tests, especially in the areas that have been declared as coronavirus hotspots. Also, the ICMR is working to allow round-the-clock RNA extraction facility and for that, the researching body is coordinating with the existing laboratories. The antibody blood test (rapid test) takes 10-15 minutes to give results and work on blood samples.

Also, many private laboratories have collaborated to provide better response needed in scaling up Covid-19 testing.

Amol Naikawadi, Joint Managing Director of Indus Health Plus, told The Sunday Guardian, “We understand the significance of prevention and early detection and hence, an extensive testing strategy is the best possible way to control the transmission of Covid-19. Our organisation is committed to prevention and, therefore, we collaborated with SRL Diagnostics and Suburban Diagnostics to provide greater accessibility to these tests in different parts of the country. We will continue to provide support and identify opportunities where Indus Health Plus can be a part to control this dreadful situation in our country.”

According to the Indus Health Plus, the private laboratories, as per the government’s mandate, can conduct real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based tests. Also, only certified phlebotomists are allowed to collect test samples directly from the patient’s home. The personnel are required to take necessary precautionary measures as per ICMR guidelines while taking the throat and nasal swabs for tests. The company is instrumental in Maharashtra and Delhi-NCR in providing diagnostic solutions.

The Sunday Guardian has learnt that initially the number of testing kits available with the ICMR were low which now is not the case, as the ICMR has procured more than 12 lakh test kits. Also, homegrown Covid-19 testing kits from companies like MyLab Diagnosis Solution have helped in getting the required number of testing kits.