Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday reviewed the COVID-19 sampling and testing strategy and said all efforts should be made to procure testing kits immediately for supply to laboratories.
Dr Vardhan directed officials to ensure states have all the required facilities and do not face shortage of testing kits, reagents or equipment.
Extra support will be given to states and union territories that do not have laboratories and testing facilities as well as to North-Eastern states and the UT of Ladakh, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
There should be no comprise in the quality of testing kits procured by the government or private labs, Vardhan directed and said the quality assessment of the kits will be done regularly.
He said for this a clear quality control mechanism and protocol needs to be developed and implemented by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) immediately.
The Health Minister held the review meeting with senior officials of the ICMR, Department of Science and Technology, Biotechnology and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
There was an elaborate discussion on issues like procurement of reagents, website integration, data management and analysis, dashboards, research studies both planned and done so far.
During the meeting, it was informed by ICMR director-general that 129 government laboratories are functional with a testing capacity of 13,000 tests per day along with 49 NABL accredited private labs, the statement said.
The private chains have around 16000 collection centres. It was also informed that adequate test kits have been procured and disseminated across the states for any further eventualities.
He was also informed that rapid antibody test kits have been also ordered. As of now, 38,442 tests have been done with 1,334 tests in private labs across the country, the statement said.
Further discussions were held with the officials of the Ministry of Science and Technology about the status of research into the developing solutions for handling COVID-19.
According to the statement, secretary Department of Science and Technology (DST), Dr Ashutosh Sharma informed that through mapping of the COVID-19 related technology capabilities in start-ups, academia, research and development labs and industry, over 500 entities in the areas of diagnostics, drugs, ventilators, protection gear, disinfecting systems, etc. have been identified.
“Over 200 proposals have been received in the last one week against the funding calls of DST, from which over 20 entities are under active consideration for support in the first phase, taking into account the relevance, cost, speed and scale of solutions to manage COVID-19,” Sharma said.
Secretary Department of Biotechnology Renu Swarup informed that DBT has formed a consortium to support the development of medical equipment, diagnostics, therapeutics, drugs and vaccines to meet the healthcare challenges.
She stated that the manufacturing capacity of the first indigenous kit developed by a start-up in Pune is being scaled up to produce nearly one lakh kits per week.
A manufacturing facility for indigenous development of ventilators, testing kits, imaging equipment and ultrasound and high-end radiology equipment has been set up in Vishakhapatnam where manufacturing will start in the first week of April.
DBT along with Drug Controller General of India has developed and notified a Rapid Response Regulatory Framework to provide expedited regulatory approvals for all diagnostics drugs and vaccines, the statement stated.
Vaccine development is being supported with three Indian industries. Research on Therapeutic and drug development has started.
The Minister informed that he had a discussion in the morning with Health Ministers of the states and UTs about the actions being taken by Union Health Ministry, reviewed the status of preparedness of states and UTs and assured them with all possible support.
He also lauded the states for active surveillance, effective contact tracing and their preparedness for containment and management of COVID-19, according to the statement.