Test kits to diagnose Coronavirus cases are not being manufactured in India currently and obtained from abroad has been a challenge because of the airlines being in lockdown and travel bans imposed by the government for several nations.
Until now, India has had a very restrictive testing policy, which has resulted in among the lowest testing rates in the world. This despite the World Health Organisation urging all countries to ramp up their coronavirus testing to try to reduce the severity of the pandemic.
But considering the rising number of cases and fears of community transmission of the virus, the testing protocol may change in the coming days. The ICMR has placed an order for one million testing reagents from Germany.
Experts voiced concern about the low testing in India, saying that the government had put too many conditions to test a person in a government facility, and as a result, capacity of government facilities were underutilised.
Coronavirus has so far caused three deaths in the country and infected at least 126 people. Many experts fear the number of infected people may be much higher, but the government has simply failed to detect them because of its limited testing.
The Indian government has restricted coronavirus tests to only those with recent travel history to affected countries or those known to have come in contact with confirmed cases as well as with symptoms of the disease.
On the other hand, South Korea has been able to conduct a large number of diagnostic tests at a fast pace – an average of over 20,000 tests in a day. This is helping authorities in detecting coronavirus patients at an early stage and treat them to recovery. The country has over 500 testing labs.
For India to efficiently tackle the coronavirus challenge, experts say the government needs to expand its testing criteria to control the surge in numbers. Aggressive testing is also important to give authorities and the people a realistic idea of the infection at a time when many patients are fleeing quarantine centres and suppressing symptoms.
Coronavirus testing is currently of two types: blood-based and swab based. While the blood-based test is expected to cost around Rs 700, the swab-based one could cost around Rs 6,000. Officials said that the government should regulate the cost of testing if private labs are roped in as the costs are still high as the volumes are still low.