If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, if you are in a community where COVID-19 is spreading, if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have recently travelled to a place affected with COVID-19, call and report your healthcare provider. If you don’t, then you may be putting your own life at risk and also affecting the lives of others around you. Be aware, seek medical care and let the healthcare professionals decide if you need to be tested or put on isolation.
Where can I get the COVID-19 test done?
Out of 57 government laboratories, 51 are controlled by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). They are responsible for carrying out the primary test. All you need to do is call the helpline numbers released by state governments and they will guide you to the nearest testing facility.
The secondary testing confirms COVID-19 after the primary test results come back positive. Previously, Pune had the apex lab for this facility, which was later increased to 13 labs and then 15 labs equipped with secondary testing facilities. NCDC Delhi is also engaged in testing. 1 lab facility in Leh has been designated to help collect samples and facilitate the transport of those for further testing.
Currently, only government labs are conducting tests to detect coronavirus. ICMR and NIV are not using commercial kits. Instead they are using testing material made in India. Probes are being imported from Germany.
How much does it cost?
The testing for COVID-19 is free for the patients and is done by government labs and hospitals, or sample collecting centres. In the case of a primary test, a health professional collects your sample of saliva or mucus. The nucleic acid is extracted from the sample and sent for screening against the Wuhan strain of coronavirus.
The secondary test takes place in which the samples are re-tested after the result of the primary test is confirmed. Once this comes out positive, the doctors will confirm that you are infected with the novel coronavirus.
How long do the tests take?
Primary testing takes 2-4 hours and secondary testing takes another 3-4 hours. The whole process slows down if you are tested in a lab that does not have secondary testing facilities and the samples have to be taken to a secondary testing lab.
What is the COVID-19 testing strategy in India?
In India, the testing protocol has been restricted to only people who show symptoms. According to ICMR, since there has been no community transmission yet, people who have travelled abroad, especially to coronavirus affected countries and those who have direct contact with such people are being monitored.
These people are advised to self-quarantine and if they show any symptoms, they have to undergo tests.
Why are only people who travelled abroad being tested?
In order to prevent the nation from reaching the stage of community transmission of the disease, various state governments have started shutting down schools, colleges, cinema halls and more. Since India has no community transmission yet, only people who travelled abroad are being tested.
What happens when you are tested positive?
Once you are tested positive in the primary testing, your saliva or mucus samples are taken for secondary testing. When it gets tested positive, it means you have contracted the novel coronavirus. This means you will be put under isolation in the hospital and receive proper treatment until you recover.
Do medical insurance policies cover COVID-19?
On the 4th of March, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) instructed all insurances to extend claims of hospitalisation or medical expenses incurred during the treatment of the novel coronavirus.
How does ICMR test for community transmission?
On the 15th of February, ICMR began testing 10 random samples in each of the 51 labs. As the virus started spreading aggressively the samples were increased to 20 and more. They have been testing asymptomatic people as reports suggested that the infection could travel through asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people. ICMR is also testing people with no travel history to the coronavirus affected places to stop the chain of infection.
When should I get tested?
If you experience any flu-like symptoms such as dry cough, breathing difficulty, fever and fatigue it is advisable to see a doctor and get yourself tested.
If you have recently travelled and do not show any of these symptoms, you should self-monitor and self-isolate.
Testing allows people to know that they are infected and receive proper treatment. It also reduces the risk of others getting infected and thus slows down or prevents the spread of the disease.