While it has roped in more government and private laboratories to carry out confirmatory tests for the novel-coronavirus, the India Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Monday said everyone showing mild symptoms for the disease might not need urgent medical attention or hospitalisation.
Urging people not to panic and not rush to hospitals in case of mild symptoms, R R Gangakhedkar, head of epidemiology and communicable disease division at ICMR, said it was important not to overcrowd hospitals at a time when people need immediate medical attention.
“What needs to be done now is to ensure that we do not overcrowd our hospitals and spread the infection. Let’s keep our frontline health workers safe too, and opt for digital consultation with doctors,” Gangakhedkar told The Indian Express.
He said while laboratories were gearing up to conduct more tests, not everyone required to get themselves tested.
“The tests are only a tool to detect the virus and assess whether medical attention is required. There will eventually come a stage when tests would not be necessary, and symptoms can be managed by medical guidance at home. It is crucial to reduce the load on hospitals, and I urge people not to panic or rush to outpatient departments of hospitals where the risk of infection is likely to be very high,” he said.
“It is heartening to see so many people following the instructions seriously and staying at home. It is crucial to ensure that they do not flock to hospitals. This is one place where social distancing is unlikely to happen,” he said.
He also highlighted the urgent need to equip all doctors and other medical staff with sufficient personal protective gears.
“We need to keep our health professionals safe and fit. Otherwise, it will become an army with lesser number of soldiers,” he said.
So far, India has recorded 415 positive coronavirus cases, of which seven people have died. As the number of infected people rise, the ICMR had on Saturday said it was roping in private laboratories to carry out tests as well. There are 111 government laboratories that are currently testing samples, and Gangakhedkar said, about 50 private laboratories had applied for permission to do so. He said about 5,000 samples were being tested every week, and that the government had enough testing kits to last at least a fortnight.
He said ICMR had also initiated a study to assess how soon the virus-shedding starts to occur amongst infected persons and at what stage it loses its potency to infect. This will allow health officials to decide whether infected patients could be discharged before their 14-day quarantine period.
“For this study we are following up on the patients who are admitted across the country, and their contacts,” he said.