Coronavirus | Govt. ramps up testing, 11 extra labs inducted

The Centre has has inducted 11 more COVID-19 testing labs in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of diagnostic labs to 1,047. This includes 760 in the government sector and 287 private labs, said the Union Health Ministry on Monday.

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Currently, there are 567 Real-Time PCR-based testing labs (Govt.: 362 + Private: 205), 393 TrueNat based testing labs (Govt.: 366 + Private: 27) and 87 CBNAAT based testing labs (Govt: 32 + Private: 55). The total number of samples tested is rising and had touched 83,98,362. On Sunday 1,70,560 samples were tested, according to data released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

A senior ICMR official said the Council has also released “Guidelines for storage of respiratory specimens collected for COVID-19 diagnosis by RT-PCR platforms in government laboratories”, aimed at ensuring safety and quality control.

The Council noted that in the on-going laboratory testing for COVID-19 diagnosis, clinical specimens or a subset of the clinical specimens may need to be retained for various purposes such as performing additional tests, for quality control purposes or use as control materials to assess newer diagnostic tests. In addition, a laboratory may need to store specimens for projects aimed at studying genomic epidemiology of the SARS CoV2 virus across regions and over time.

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“These guidelines have noted that all such samples stored for a long-term must be appropriately labelled indicating laboratory identifiers, date of sample collection and must be stored in properly functioning -80oC deep freezers. A proper inventory (preferably electronic) of stored samples should be essentially maintained,” said a senior ICMR official.

The guidelines are also vital because with the surge in testing across the country, the total number of tested samples has gone up, he added.

As per the guidelines if the number of samples tested positive at a laboratory is considerably large and the laboratory is unable to retain all positive samples beyond 30 days, a minimum of 10% of all positives detected at the laboratory in a month or 40-50 positives preferably with equal numbers of high, moderate and low viral load should be stored for a period of 1 year at the least.

A single aliquot of a positive sample may be retained taking into account freezer space availability at the laboratory, said the Council.

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