Testing

List of Govt. Approved Labs For COVID-19 Testing

The central government expanded the network of government laboratories designated to test samples of suspected coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases to 139 laboratories. Among 1117 government laboratories, 489 are approved to test for Real-Time PCR (RT PCR) tests, 592 for TrueNat screening tests, and 36 for CBNAAT testing. Also, additional 65 private laboratories were approved to conduct COVID-19 tests. Among 845 private laboratories, 535 are approved to test RT PCR tests, 216 to test for TrueNat tests and 94 to test for CBNAAT testing.

In addition to this, the Indian Council of Medical Research found 6 government laboratories that are suitable to test for COVID-19. But these labs will not be supported by ICMR, i.e. ICMR will not provide diagnostic kits/reagents to these labs and the labs may initiate testing as per directives of the respective State Government.

You can find the details of all the centers that can collect samples and test for COVID-19 by clicking on the pinpoint on the map.

What To Do If You Think You Might Be Infected With SARS CoV-2?.

If you experience any of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, follow these steps below to help prevent the spread of the disease.

  1. Do not go to a hospital or pharmacy, instead call the State helpline number or Ministry of Health & Family Welfare’s 24X7 helpline at 011-23978046 or see one of the numbers above.
  2. You may be asked to self-quarantine.
  3. Your details will be shared with the local healthcare officials.
  4. The local healthcare officials will contact you with the testing protocols of COVID-19.
  5. If you qualify as a case to get tested, then you will be tested at a Government approved lab.
  6. Till the results come back, you may be asked to self-quarantine or kept quarantined at a healthcare facility.

When To Get Tested For COVID-19?

  • You should get tested for COVID-19 if you experience symptoms such as fever, cough, cold, loss of smell or taste, and difficulty in breathing.
  • If you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, then immediately call the State helpline number or  Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India’s 24×7 helpline 1075 or 011-2397 8046.
  • Your details will be shared with the local healthcare officials and you will be called back with the testing protocols.
  • If you qualify as a case for testing as per the protocol, you will be tested at a Government approved lab only.

Testing Protocol

On September 4, the Indian Council of Medical Research released an advisory on the revised strategy for COVID-19 testing in India. This advisory is generic and can be modified at the discretion of state health officials.

a) Routine surveillance in containment zones and screening at points of entry

  • All symptomatic cases (with ILI symptoms) including health care workers and frontline workers.
  • All asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a laboratory-confirmed case to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact.
  • All asymptomatic high-risk individuals (elderly ≥ 65 years of age, those with co-morbidities, etc.) in containment zones.

These people will be tested by Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and RT-PCR or TrueNat or CBNAAT (in the order of priority). Ideally, it is suggested that 100% of people living in containment zones should be tested by RAT particularly in cities with widespread transmission.

b) Routine surveillance in non-containment areas

  • All symptomatic cases (with ILI symptoms) with a history of international travel in the last 14 days.
  • All symptomatic contacts of a laboratory-confirmed case.
  • All symptomatic health care workers and frontline workers who are involved in containment and mitigation activities.
  • All symptomatic cases among returnees and migrants within 7 days of illness.
  • All asymptomatic high-risk contacts (contacts in family and workplace, elderly ≥ 65 years of age, those with co-morbidities, etc.) [Rapid antigen test recommended as the first choice of test in order of priority]

These people will be tested by RT-PCR or TrueNat or CBNAAT and RAT (in the order of priority). 

c) In Hospital settings

  • All SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Infection) patients
  • All symptomatic patients presenting in a healthcare setting.
  • Asymptomatic high-risk patients who are hospitalized or seeking immediate hospitalization such as immunocompromised individuals, patients diagnosed with malignant disease, transplant patients, patients with chronic co-morbidities, elderly ≥ 65 years. 
  • Asymptomatic patients undergoing surgical or non-surgical invasive procedures (not to be tested more than once during the hospital stay)
  • All pregnant women hospitalized for delivery.
  • All symptomatic neonates presenting with acute respiratory/sepsis-like illness.
  • Patients presenting with atypical manifestations [stroke, encephalitis, hemoptysis, pulmonary embolism, acute coronary symptoms, Guillain Barre syndrome, Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome, progressive gastrointestinal symptoms, Kawasaki Disease (in pediatric age group)] based on the discretion of the treating physician.

These people will be tested by RT-PCR or TrueNat or CBNAAT and RAT (in the order of priority).

d) Testing on demand

  • All individuals traveling to other countries/Indian states mandating a negative COVID-19 test at the point of entry.
  • All individuals who wish to get themselves tested.

For the full text of the guidelines, click here.

Types of COVID Tests & Testing Process

RT-PCR tests

Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test is the most commonly used COVID test in India. It requires a simple swab taken from inside a person’s nose or throat to detect the presence of the virus in the body. This test can detect the genetic material of the virus, RNA present in the body even before the antibodies are formed and symptoms are present and tell if the person is infected.

Rapid antibody tests

Antibody tests, also known as serological tests are fast, inexpensive and can be used to check if a community or a large population is exposed to the virus. This test requires a blood sample to detect the presence of the antibodies for coronavirus in the body. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to fight off the specific bacteria or viruses entering the body. However, these tests are not 100% reliable as they can give false positives.

Rapid antigen tests

Rapid antigen tests are fast, inexpensive, and requires a nasal sample to detect the antigen in the body. An antigen is a foreign substance or toxin present in the body that triggers an immune response. Similar to the RT-PCR test, this test can detect the presence of the virus rather than the antibodies. However, it is also not 100% reliable as the swab samples may lack enough antigen material to be detectable. This may result in false-negatives.

TrueNat & CBNAAT tests

TrueNat & CBNAAT tests are generally used for detecting tuberculosis, and works similar to RT-PCR tests but produces faster results. ICMR has approved the use of TrueNat & CBNAAT tests for screening and confirmation of COVID-19. These tests require the nasal or throat swab samples to detect the presence of the coronavirus in the body.

TrueNat is an indigenously developed, portable version of CBNAAT or Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test, also known as the Genexpert test. Both these tests are cheaper and quicker than RT-PCR tests. However, TrueNat is battery operated and portable, while CBNAAT machines need an uninterrupted power supply and air conditioning.