Mumbai: Is the new rule for testing Covid19 patients a method to mask the real numbers? This is what the medical fraternity believes. The revised guideline issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says people with influenza-like symptoms shall be tested for Covid-19 only if they are from containment or red zones.
The latest ICMR guideline for Covid testing, dated May 18, states the provision for testing at fever clinics and the screening of those visiting the outpatient departments (OPDs) has been scrapped, unless those seeking the test are from containment or hot zones.
The Association of Medical Consultants (AMC) claims this is an attempt by the civic bodies to reduce the number of containment zones on paper because if suspected patients from other areas are not tested for Covid-19, there won't be new areas to identify and consequently, a reduction in the number of containment areas. The major drawback of this move will be a surge in unidentified cases, which is further dangerous, doctors say.
Noting the revised guideline, Dr Deepak Baid, president, Association of Medical Consultants (AMC), said the government is probably unaware of the ground reality that it is patients who test positive that define the hot zone or containment zone and not the other way round.
“If patients from red or containment zones are given priority, then there is a 100 per cent chance that new red zones will emerge in the city or state,” he said. He said there have been many instances of asymptomatic patients being found positive during surgeries/ deliveries, infecting doctors and healthcare staff.
“It can be said the government is trying to hide the number of cases by taking out high-risk people from the to-be-tested list. The rules are politically correct but fundamentally and morally wrong,” Dr Baid added.
Dr Avinash Bondhwe, president, Indian Medical Association, said the closing of fever clinics and dispensaries in containment zones was not a great move and it would only cause an increase in the number of cases. “If patients from containment zones step out for testing, the infection will spread to 10 more people, who will be left untested.
The functioning of fever clinics across city is compulsory,” he said. The ICMR also issued guidelines for testing asymptomatic and high-risk patients, especially those with a history of contact with other positive patients.
As per the new guidelines, atypical and high-risk contact cases should be tested between five and 10 days of coming into contact with a positive patient.