Pointing out a “deviation” from ICMR guidelines, Lt-Governor Anil Baijal Monday directed the Delhi government to test asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of confirmed cases, saying not doing so can hamper contact-tracing and result in further spread of Covid-19 in the national capital.
Baijal said the Director General of Health Services Delhi (DGHS), which had on June 2 tweaked the ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) strategy, thus ruling out testing of asymptomatic contacts of confirmed patients, should stick to the guidelines set at the central level.
“This deviation in the ICMR guidelines can result in inadequate contact tracing of affected individuals and can result in further spread of COVID-19 in NCT of Delhi. Now, therefore, in exercise of powers conferred under Section 18(3) read with Section 18(2)(d) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the undersigned hereby directs all departments and authorities concerned of NCT of Delhi, to ensure that ICMR strategy for COVID-19 testing in India issued on 18.05.2020 is strictly observed in NCT of Delhi without any deviation,” the order states.
Clause 5 of the ICMR’s May 18 testing strategy says “asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact”. It spelt out eight other categories, which had found mention in the DGHS order.
However, the one issued by the DGHS removed the term “asymptomatic” from clause 5. It specified that direct and high-risk contacts who will be eligible for testing will include diabetics, patients of hypertension, cancer or senior citizens.
Subsequently, the Delhi government had barred six private labs from collecting samples for testing, saying they were not following testing norms and testing asymptomatic patients against the ICMR guidelines.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also said in his press briefing on Saturday that asymptomatic people should refrain from being tested. “The priority is to save the lives of serious patients. Those with mild symptoms, or those asymptomatic, can recover. If all asymptomatic patients will start going to the labs for tests, then the system will collapse. Asymptomatic people should not insist on getting tested. If they are going to get tested, serious patients will suffer,” he had said.
Baijal, in his capacity as the chairperson of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, said that in order to contain the spread of Covid, it is essential to conduct thorough contact-tracing of affected persons, especially in containment zones, and the ICMR strategy for testing should be followed “without any deviation”.