ICMR says no need to test contacts of COVID patients unless identified as 'high-risk'; get vaccinated, urges PM

Individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel, asymptomatic individuals in community setting, and people who stand discharged as per home isolation norms also need not be tested.

FP Staff January 10, 2022 16:46:31 IST
ICMR says no need to test contacts of COVID patients unless identified as 'high-risk'; get vaccinated, urges PM

Representational Image. AP

According to a revised ICMR Advisory on Purposive Testing Strategy for COVID-19, contacts of confirmed COVID cases need not get tested unless identified as 'high-risk' based on age or comorbidities.  They also said individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travels do not need to get tested either.

Five to 10 percent of the active COVID cases this time so far needed hospitalisation but the situation is dynamic and may change rapidly, the Centre said on Monday and asked states to keep a watch on cases under home isolation and in hospitals.

The new guidelines clearly states the testing strategy for COVID-19.

Who may be tested

In community settings:

1. Symptomatic (cough, fever, sore throat, loss of taste and/or smell, breathlessness and/or other respiratory symptoms) individuals.

2. At-risk contacts of laboratory confirmed cases. [At-risk contacts are elderly (>60yr) and individuals with co-morbidity such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung or kidney disease, malignancy, obesity etc].

3. Individuals undertaking international travel (as per country-specific requirements).

4. International travelers arriving at Indian airports/seaports/ports of entries as per laid down guidelines.

In Hospital Settings:

5. Testing may be undertaken as per discretion of the treating doctor with the following considerations:

  • No emergency procedure (including surgeries and deliveries) should be delayed for lack of a test.
  • Patients should not be referred to other facilities for lack of a testing facility. All arrangements should be made to collect and transfer samples to testing facilities, mapped to the health facility.
  • Asymptomatic patients undergoing surgical / non-surgical invasive procedures including pregnant women in/near labour who are hospitalized for delivery should not be tested unless warranted or symptoms develop.
  • Admitted patients may not be tested more than once a week

People who need not be tested

1. Asymptomatic individuals in community settings

2. Contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 unless identified as high risk based on age or comorbidities

3. Patients who stand discharged as per home isolation guidelines

4. Patients being discharged from a COVID-19 facility as per revised discharge policy

5. Individuals undertaking inter-state domestic travel

Let there be no lapse in our preparedness: Mandaviya

Reiterating that the Centre is dedicated to supporting states in containing COVID, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said the Union government has provided support under ECRP-II for strengthening the health infrastructure across the country.

India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package- Phase-II is a centrally sponsored scheme to prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by the ongoing pandemic and strengthen the national health systems for emergency response and preparedness across the country.

Interacting with health ministers, top officials and information commissioners of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Mandaviya said, "Let there be no lapse in our preparedness as we battle this surge of the pandemic."

Increase inoculation of all eligible populations, especially in low vaccination coverage areas and districts, the Union Minister advised the states. "Vaccination results in low hospitalisation and severity, as is seen globally."

Today, lakhs of 60-plus citizens and frontline as well as health workers queued up for their third jab as India began administering a “precautionary” dose against the infection.

Lauding the effort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "India began administering Precaution Doses. Kudos to those who have got vaccinated today. I would request all those who are eligible to get vaccinated. As we all know, vaccination remains among the most effective means to fight COVID-19."

The health minister advised states to hold regular meetings with regional officers of ICMR, NCDC, Airport Public Health Officers and the State Surveillance Officers, the statement said.

Mandaviya highlighted the importance of teleconsultation through platforms such as eSanjeevani and advised the states to establish it in every district.

"They should work round the clock... It is important that people know about the available health infrastructure and services. States need to publicise their availability and also establish control rooms to monitor them," he said.

Molnupiravir: No magic drug

A majority of patients during this third wave of COVID have so far shown mild symptoms that can be managed at home with symptomatic treatment, an AIIMS doctor said, stressing that antiviral pill Molnupiravir is no magic drug for the disease. There is no specific drug against COVID-19 as of now and the treatment still remains symptomatic, said Dr Neeraj Nischal, an additional professor in the Department of Medicine at AIIMS. "A majority of the infected patients during the third wave of Covid so far have shown mild symptoms which can be easily managed at home with symptomatic treatment," he said.

People must remember that this drug has been given restricted emergency use authorisation in a very selective group of patients who are at risk of developing serious disease and have no other therapeutic options, he said. "So efforts should be made to restrict the use of this drug as the known and unknown harm is much more than the limited benefit it may offer. It should not become an over-the-counter medicine and should be prescribed with due diligence."

Keep daily watch on the situation: Health Ministry to states 

During the second surge of COVID infections in the country, the percentage of active cases that needed hospital care were in the range of 20-23 percent, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to states and Union territories. "In the present surge, five to 10 percent of active cases needed hospitalisation so far. The situation is dynamic and evolving. Therefore, the need for hospitalization may also change rapidly," Bhushan said.

All states and Union Territories are advised to keep a daily watch on the situation of the total number of active cases, cases under home isolation, the number of hospitalized cases, cases on oxygen beds, ICU beds and on ventilatory support, he wrote in the letter.

"Based on this monitoring, the requirement of healthcare workers and their availability health facility wise must also be reviewed daily as was done during the second surge," the health secretary said.

Appreciating that while various states and Union Territories initiated steps for the establishment of jumbo health facilities, field hospitals, temporary hospitals among others, Bhushan said both infrastructure and human resources have their limitations.

Therefore, it is important to conserve healthcare workers by initiating staggering wherever possible and by restricting elective procedures in the hospitals, he advised.

The ministry has suggested states and Union Territories to earmark different categories of beds in private clinical establishments for COVID care.

"It must also be ensured that charges levied by such health facilities are reasonable and there is a mechanism to monitor and initiate action in cases of over-charging if any," Bhushan said in the letter.

He also suggested engaging retired medical professionals or MBBS students for teleconsultation services and providing skill training of community volunteers in basic care and management at Covid Care Centres.

About 10 lakh booster doses were given today. About 5.75 cr people are eligible for the third dose in the ongoing drive, which includes 2.75 cr people aged above 60, one cr healthcare workers and 2cr frontline workers.

With inputs from PTI

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