NEW DELHI: Seeking to boost preparedness to combat Covid-19, the government asked private hospitals to reserve beds for isolation of patients and also issued separate guidelines for testing and notifying of positive patients by private institutions including hospitals and laboratories.
The guidelines issued by the government on Tuesday also include clinical management of the disease and protocol for handling of bodies of the deceased even as the government decided to rope in private laboratories to ramp up testing network.
Private labs have been asked to collect samples from doorstep to avoid risk of infection. Besides, appropriate biosafety and biosecurity precautions are to be ensured while collecting samples. Alternatively, a disease specific separate collection site may be created, the guidelines said. Once the validation process is complete, private labs are likely to start testing from next week.
The Indian Council of Medical Research requested the labs to do the tests free of cost. ICMR director general Balram Bhargava said the country needed the support of such labs in weathering the novel coronavirus crisis.
Government is in talks with private hospitals to negotiate the cost of treatment in case beds are to be used.
Positive Covid-19 cases rose to 137 on Tuesday including three deaths, according to the health ministry. Reports from states put the number at 143.
“There is no evidence of community transmission as yet. Progressively, we have asked private hospitals to earmark isolation beds. This is just for preparedness. Many players have shown interest to participate in the efforts. So, we are sharing different SOPs with them and asking them to be prepared as per protocols,” Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the health ministry, said.
The government also continued to tighten restrictions on entry to the country with travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines and Malaysia prohibited with immediate effect. “No flight shall take off from these countries to India after 3pm IST,” the fresh advisory said. The government feels restrictions on entry announced since February 26, along with rigorous contact tracing, have helped limit virus transmission.
As per testing guidelines issued for the private sector, a laboratory test should be only offered when prescribed by a qualified physician as per ICMR guidance. “Since the guidance evolves periodically, the latest revised version should be followed,” Agarwal said.
ICMR will share SOPs for laboratory testing and provide positive controls for establishing the test as soon as the private laboratory concerned has procured the primers, probes and reagents. Adoption of commercial kits for testing should be based on validations conducted by ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, Agarwal said.
“In the wake of the prevailing Covid-19 situation and in order to strengthen the containment measures, it is of utmost importance that each and every case (suspects/confirmed) of Covid-19 is isolated and provided appropriate treatment and their contacts are traced at the earliest to break the chain of transmission. It is important that support and cooperation of private sector is enlisted in this regard,” the government said.
Experts say most cases of Covid-19 are mild and self-limiting. According to the World Health Organisation, only 20% patients progress to severe and critical illness and require supportive care interventions, such as oxygen and ventilation.
Officials said the readiness was based on risk assessment taking into account age, travel history, contact tracing and co-morbidities of samples which have been collected so far. With 137 positive cases so far, over 5,700 people who have come in contact are under surveillance. Besides, 69,436 people are under community surveillance.
To ascertain whether there is a risk of community transmission, the government is waiting for ICMR to test over 1,000 randomly collected samples of people suffering from severe acute respiratory infection such as pneumonia without having a travel history or contact. The results are expected on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the government maintained there is only limited localised transmission and there is no need to panic.
Guidelines on dead body management, precautions, infection control and environmental cleaning and disinfection were also released. With coronavirus cases rising and concerns over travellers concealing their itineraries, the government had on Monday banned the entry of passengers from European Union countries, Turkey and the UK till March 31.-Times Of India