In a bid to boost testing, the Centre on Thursday said that private practitioners can also prescribe the coronavirus test. The move comes as covid-19 cases crossed 612,200 and the government realized that testing more people will be key to containing the pandemic.

“Covid-19 testing can now be done on the prescription of any registered practitioner, and not exclusively a government doctor,” the Union health ministry said.

“In view of the increased load on government healthcare facilities, this mandatory requirement may at times pose an impediment for an individual to get tested and lead to unnecessary delays. At this juncture, it is absolutely necessary to facilitate testing at the earliest by enabling all qualified medical practitioners, including private practitioners, to prescribe covid-19 test to any individual fulfilling the criteria for testing as per ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) norms.”

“The decision has made the process simpler… Private practitioners are easily accessible, it will be easier for patients to contact them and get their tests done in time. This in turn will also help in containing the spread of the infection as timely testing will mean timely intervention in the form of home isolation or treatment,” said Dr Ajay Aggarwal, director, internal medicine, Fortis Noida.

In a letter to states, ICMR strongly recommended that laboratories should be free to test any individual in accordance with its guidelines and state authorities must not restrict an individual from getting tested, considering that early testing can help in containing covid and saving lives.

“Private practitioners are primary pillars for the fight against covid-19 and should have been shouldered with this responsibility right at the outset of the pandemic. That is where we went wrong, when enforcing the lockdown,” said O.P. Yadava, CEO, National Heart Institute, New Delhi.

“If in those initial stages, private practitioners had been allowed to do these tests, then small groups would have approached local doctors, rather than visiting big hospitals and spreading the disease,” he added.

“Test-Track-Treat” is the only strategy for early detection and containment of the outbreak, the Centre said, asking states and U territories to take all possible steps to ensure full capacity utilization of all covid-19 testing laboratories.

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