Though the RT-PCR tests remain the gold standard of testing, the Centre sees RAT, even with lesser reliability, an important tool to improve tracking and, therefore, containment. While ICMR aims to increase total testing capacity to 45 lakh tests a day by end of June from an average of 19 lakh on May 14, the share of RAT is likely to increase three-fold from 7 lakh to 27 lakh a day, said ICMR director general Balram Bhargava.
The council has also approved a RAT kit for home testing which will soon be available in the market. Bhargava explained that an individual can test at home and upload a screen shot of the reading to an app to recieve a report on Covid status. The tests that are being rolled out will cost Rs 250 each but the price will vary as per manufacturer.
RAT will not only help in early detection of positive cases, but also enable isolation to reduce transmission and timely treatment to reduce deaths. Since most laboratories are concentrated in urban areas and the viral infection seems to be progressing—as compared to the first wave—quicker in rural setting, RAT with a faster turnaround time is seen as a feasible option. It is felt it can provide a good indicator of infection in villages and more remote tribal areas helping public health experts plan containment measures.