The Centre may soon start testing all patients who come to hospitals with flu-like symptoms for COVID-19 and gradually move on to mass testing in hotspots and clusters.
Quoting a highly placed source, an Indian Express report said the central government is planning to extend the protocol to all hospitals across the country and will follow it up with voluntary community testing.
“This means that whoever comes forward to get tested, we will test, regardless of whether the person has travel and contact history or not,” IE quoted the source as saying.
The source said that testing all patients with flu-like symptoms will help hospitals generate random sampling data for the disease and cut down on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) gear as healthcare workers dealing with patients who test negative wouldn’t be required to use it.
“We are looking at opportunistic screening of all patients who come to the hospital with flu-like symptoms, even if they have come to seek medical attention for some other disease. Starting from there, we will gradually expand to mass testing, initially in the hotspots and cluster containment zones,” the source said.
Once through with hospitals, the government may initiate door-to-door mass testing in hotspots and clusters.
While earlier only those with history of foreign travel and people who came in contact with them were tested for COVID-19, the Centre on April 9 changed the parameters for testing in hotspots and brought all patients with influenza-like symptoms under its ambit.
So far the government has declared 170 hotspots – 123 hotspot districts with large outbreaks and 47 hotspot districts with coronavirus clusters – in 25 states and union territories.
A senior official of the National Centre for Disease Control, who spoke to IE, said now field personnel have been given the power to assess and decide who needs to be tested including secondary, tertiary contacts and even asymptomatic cases.