The ICMR is not altering its view that an RT-PCR is the gold standard, but feels that a higher use of RAT will be useful in the context of a high number of cases and the need to check both clusters and more spread out populations in rural areas. This would mean a change in the 70:30 ratio of RT-PCR to RAT as has been recommended so far.
ICMR also said that it is exploring home-based testing solutions to reduce risk of exposure as well as faster results along with “rationalisation” of RT-PCR tests by advising against repeat tests once a positive result was recorded and not to wait for a negative report once there were no symptoms for five days.
“In the field level, in rural areas and in areas that are hard to reach, we have to start using the RAT more aggressively. Earlier our recommendation was 70% RT-PCR testing and 30% RAT but now since the wave is raging, we have requested that we must do more and faster RAT for faster isolation and faster breaking the chain,” ICMR director general Balram Bhargava said.
The council has advised states and UTs to set up multiple 24X7 RAT booths in cities, towns and villages. Besides RATs are to be allowed at all government and private healthcare facilities and no accreditation is required.