ICMR: Pooled Testing only in areas of less than 5% COVID-19 prevalence

On April 22, 2020, the Indian Council of Medical Research announced that pooled testing can be done only in areas where the COVID-19 prevalence is less than 5%. Also, the ICMR has instructed that not more than 5 samples shall be pooled. This is done to improve the efficacy of pooled testing

What is pooled testing?

Pooled testing is putting swab samples obtained from several people that might be exposed to COVID-19 and testing them all using one RT-PCR (Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction) test kit.

When the bulk samples test positive, this means at least one person is infected by COVID-19. Later, the samples are tested individually to identify the infected person.

The method is used to track asymptomatic cases and check community transmission.

India’s stand in testing

The testing in India is less as compared to other countries. Between March 21, 2020 and April 21, 2020, the following number of people were tested per 1000

  • India-0.33
  • UK-5.91
  • South Korea-11.09
  • US-12.08
  • Italy-224.52
  • Israel-28.45

This says that India lags way behind in testing as compared to other countries. Therefore, more of such pooled testing strategies should be adopted.

Current Scenario

So far in India, Pooled testing has been adopted in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Though Andaman was the first Union Territory to adopt pool testing, UP was the first state to adopt the methodology.

Pooled Testing has been successful in Israel and Germany as well.

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