To enhance capacity for diagnosis and detection of novel coronavirus amid rising cases in the country, the Union Health Ministry has decided to allow accredited private labs to conduct tests for COVID-19, officials said on Monday.
At present only government labs are permitted to do the test and the Centre is making arrangements to nearly double its capacity to test for the respiratory ailment.
According to Health Ministry officials, around 60 accredited private laboratories are likely to be given permission to conduct the tests soon.
"We are yet to finalise the names of labs. The modalities for the same are being worked out," an official said.
Both are confirmatory tests for COVID-19 are currently being done free-of cost at government set-ups.
Raman R Gangakhedkar, head of the Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at Indian Council of Medical Research on Monday that the testing capacity is not an issue as as per the capacity of 52 labs, India can conduct up to 10,000 tests per day at present.
"Around 600 samples are being tested per day," he said.
He further said 60,000 testing kits are available now and additional 200,000 kits have been ordered.
According to the current testing protocols, only those with history of travel to high-risk countries affected by the respiratory virus and those who came in contact with those having tested positive have been asked to be quarantined for 14 days and those who show symptoms of the infection are being tested.
The ministry has also started random testing of people, who are suffering from respiratory ailments such as influenza and pneumonia but do not have a history of travel abroad, to ascertain if there has been community transmission of coronavirus infection.
Health Ministry officials have asked people not to panic, saying no community transmission of the virus has been observed and there has only been cases of localised transmission so far.
According to a senior ICMR official, around 1,040 samples of patients admitted at various hospitals, including private facilities, due to influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory ailments have been collected and majority of them have been tested to check if the virus has infected those without a history of travelling abroad.
So far, none of the samples has tested positive for COVID-19. The final results will declared on Wednesday.
The number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 137 on Tuesday after fresh cases were reported from several states.
Also the death of a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 was reported from Maharashtra taking the number of casualties to three in the country.
The cases include 22 foreign nationals.
Delhi has so far reported seven positive cases, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 13 cases, including one foreigner.
Karnataka has 10 coronavirus patients while Maharashtra 41, including 3 foreigners.
Ladakh has reported seven cases while Jammu and Kashmir three. Telangana has reported four cases.
Rajasthan has also reported four cases including that of two foreigners. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab have reported one case each.
Odisha reported its first case on Monday.
In Haryana, there are 15 cases, which includes fourteen foreigners, while Uttarakhand has reported one case.
Kerala has recorded 24 cases, including two foreign nationals. The number also includes three patients who were discharged last month after they recovered from the contagious infection with flu-like symptoms.
According to the ministry's data, 13 people have been discharged so far which includes the three patients from Kerala.