In a decision set to speed up coronavirus testing, the BMC Tuesday decided to remove the requirement of a doctor’s prescription for Covid-19 test for all high risk contacts, even if they are asymptomatic.
Until now, BMC testing guidelines allowed Covid-19 swab test only through a public or a private doctor’s prescription for people with symptoms. A high-risk contact, meaning a close family member, of a Covid-19 positive patient could only get tested after the fifth day of quarantine if they develop symptoms. Even for that a prescription from doctor was mandatory. Testing was allowed for symptomatic health workers, front line workers, pregnant women and in some cases dialysis and cancer patients.
BMC’s Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, “A high risk contact, with or without symptoms, has to give a self-declaration to laboratory that his close contact has tested positive and that he requires a test. This declaration is enough for testing.”
The decision was taken after laboratories and doctors reported hurdles in testing mechanism leading to delay in detection of Covid positive cases. Currently, it takes 2-3 days for a patient to get a Covid-19 test done. Patients have to get doctor’s prescription, upload it for booking an appointment with a private lab and wait for a slot to get tested. The results take another 1-2 days.
However, for people who develop symptoms of Covid-19 but have no contact history with a patient, a doctor’s consultation is necessary. Kakani said several people with viral infection may mistake it for Covid-19 infection and undergo a swab test unnecessarily. “A doctor will be a better judge whether or not they need a test, for them prescription is necessary,” he said.
Mumbai has witnessed flip-flops in its testing protocol since two months when the first case was recorded on March 11. The new guidelines are expected to ease the process of testing.
Dr Chetan Velani, general physician, said, “The new process will be easy on patients. In last few days BMC has also allocated certain labs for certain wards, this will also make process faster. These are very good steps.”
Dr Shahid Barmare, also a general physician, said for the latest guidelines to be implemented smoothly, private laboratories must be informed about the new protocol. “Patients are asked to take online appointment from laboratory before they can be tested. The doctor’s form prescribing a test has to be uploaded there. Laboratories need to change the whole system with this new guidelines,” he said.
Mumbai has so far tested over 2 lakh people. It has over 16 laboratories. On Tuesday the city reported 49 deaths due to Covid-19. There are 23,405 actively infected cases admitted either in covid care centres, hospitals or at home depending on severity of symptoms.
In Mumbai, BMC officials said Nair hospital, a dedicated Covid hospital, has increased its capacity to 1024 beds oxygen support, has 70 beds with ventilators and ICUs, and 110 beds for pregnant Covid-19 infected women to deliver.
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