The Indian Council of Medical Research has asked those who are asymptomatic, and contacts of positive patients to not get tested for COVID-19 in its latest advisory released on January 10, 2022. Puzzlingly, the ICMR has said the recent advisory is for the early detection of COVID-19 cases, and has asked people testing positive through home-based test kits to not take the standard molecular RT-PCR test.
This advisory comes at a time when India is reporting over 1.5 lakh cases and showing a high-test positivity rate of 13.29 per cent, the highest since May 20, 2021.
In the advisory, the ICMR lists down the applicable tests and the people who should be getting tested. The listed tests include home tests or rapid antigen tests, and molecular tests such as the standard RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT, CRISPR, RT-LAMP, Rapid Molecular Testing Systems, and assays which detect omicron.
The guidelines state that those exhibiting symptoms of cough, fever, sore throat, loss of taste/smell or any other respiratory ailments should get themselves tested. But if a person has tested positive through a laboratory confirmed test, only their contacts who are older than 60 years of age or suffer from any co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung or kidney disease, cancer or obesity should get themselves tested. Other care-givers or contacts are not considered to be high risk, and the ICMR has stated that they do not need to get tested.
The apex medical body does not recommend COVID-19 tests for people travelling domestically within the country but has said that international travellers should get themselves tested depending on the requirements of the country they are travelling to. While several states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, and West Bengal have their own domestic travel COVID-19 requirements, it is unclear how this advisory affects those mandates. However, travellers arriving to India from any other country are expected to subject themselves to COVID-19 tests. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a list of at least twenty at risk countries which includes the United Kingdom, European Countries, South Africa, New Zealand, among others.
If any traveller is coming to India from these countries, irrespective of their vaccination status or the COVID tests they have uploaded on the Air Suvidha portal, they will have to get COVID-19 tests performed on their arrival. Similarly, two per cent of international travellers arriving from the other international countries could also be subjected to COVID-19 tests at random on arrival.
The advisory also states COVID-19 testing guidelines for patients already in hospital settings. Doctors can ask for tests on patients who do not have any surgeries or deliveries lined up that could be delayed due to a test. Admitted patients can only be tested once in a week.
The advisory also asks those who finish their home isolation or are discharged from hospitals to not undergo COVID-19 tests.