Sampling and testing strategy for COVID -19 reviewed by Union Health Ministry

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The Union health ministry reviewed sampling and testing strategy for COVID-19 in consultation with senior officials of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Disussions were conducted by ministry on issues like procurement of reagents, website integration, data management and analysis, dashboards, research studies both planned and done so far etc.

The meeting was held by Union health minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan with the stakeholders to review the sampling and testing strategy for COVID-19.

Discussion by Union Health Minister were also held along with health ministers of the States/UTs about the actions being taken by Union health ministry, reviewed the status of preparedness of States/UTs and assured them with all possible support. He also praised the States for active surveillance, effective contact tracing and their preparedness for containment and management of COVID-19.

During the meeting, it was informed by director general, ICMR that 129 government laboratories are functional with a testing capacity of 13,000 tests per day along with 49 NABL accredited private lab. The private lab chains have around 16,000 collection centres.

It was informed that adequate test kits have been procured and disseminated across the states for any further eventualities. It was further informed that rapid antibody test kits are also ordered. As of now, 38,442 tests have been done with 1,334 tests in private labs across the country.

“Mapping of the COVID-19 related technology capabilities in start-ups, academia, R&D labs and industry, over 500 entities in the areas of diagnostics, drugs, ventilators, protection gear, disinfecting systems, etc. have been identified”, informed Secretary DST Dr. Ashutosh Sharma.

More than 200 proposals have been received in the last one week against the funding calls of DST, from which over 20 entities are under active consideration for support in the first phase, taking into account the relevance, cost, speed and scale of solutions to manage COVID-19.

Dr Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has formed a consortium to support the development of medical equipment, diagnostics, therapeutics, drugs and vaccines to meet the healthcare challenges.

“CSIR is working on a five-pronged strategy to find science and technology (S&T) solutions for COVID-19 comprising of surveillance using digital and molecular methods which includes genome sequencing of the virus strains across the country, cheaper, fast and accurate diagnosis methods, intervention strategies comprising of repurposing drugs and developing new drugs etc, R&D in hospital assistive equipment and development of supply chain logistics models for items required for COVID-19 mitigation.”informed Director General, CSIR, Dr Shekhar Mande.

It has been further directed by Dr. Vardhan that all efforts should be made to procure requisite testing kits and reagents urgently and supply them to the laboratories across the country. He also directed that it should be ensured that states have all the required facilities and it should be ensured that they do not face any shortages on account of testing kits, reagents or equipment. Extra support shall be given to those States/UTs who are not having any laboratories/testing facilities as well as to North Eastern States and UT of Ladakh.

He further directed that all efforts should be made to ensure that quality of the testing kits procured by the Government or by the private labs is not compromised and quality assessment of the kits shall be done regularly. He also directed that for this a clear quality control mechanism and protocol needs to be developed and implemented by ICMR immediately so that the quality is assured on a daily basis by all the laboratories.

“Research work should continue in dynamic mode simultaneously with the COVID-19 management efforts.” Dr. Vardhan said.

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