New Delhi: The number of RT-PCR tests for detection of COVID-19 crossed the two million-mark in India on Friday, ICMR officials said as the total count of coronavirus cases shot up to 81,970 in the country. A total of 20,39,952 samples were tested in the country as on Friday 9 am, with 92,911 tests being conducted since Thursday 9 am,Dr Rajnikant Srivastava, the head of the Department of Research Management, Policy Planning and Communication at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) here said. According to officials, testing for COVID-19 has been scaled up significantly over the last two months and the capacity has increased to around one lakh tests per day. "To promote Make in India and facilitate domestic manufacturers to get their COVID-19 diagnostics kits validated, the number of ICMR-approved validation centres and laboratories has been increased from five to 14," Srivastava said. Starting with one laboratory at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune and 100 laboratories at the beginning of the lockdown, the RT-PCR tests are now available at360 government and 147 private testing facilities across the country, he added. Till March 31, 47,852 samples were tested while till April 30, a total of 9,02,654 samples were tested for coronavirus, another ICMR official said. From May 1 till 8 am on May 15, 11,37,298 samples were tested, he added. The RT-PCR throat/nasal swab test is the best method for the diagnosis of COVID-19. The test detects the virus early and is the best strategy to identify and isolate the individual, the apex health research body said. "The gold standard for COVID-19 testing remains the RT-PCR test," Srivastava said. Also, Union Heath Minister Harsh Vardhan dedicated theCOBAS6800 testing machine to the country on Thursday. He said it is the first fully-automated, high-end machine for performing real-time PCR testing for COVID-19procured by the government and it is installed at the National Centre for Disease Control. The machine will provide quality, high-volume testing of around 1,200 samples in 24 hours, Vardhan said, adding that it will increase the testing capacity with a reduction in pendency. The machine requires minimum human intervention and can be monitored remotely. Vardhan said theCOBAS6800 is a machine enabled with robotics that minimises the chance of contamination as well as the risk of infection to healthcare workers since it can be operated remotely with limited human intervention. Meanwhile, the NIV has successfully developed and validated the first indigenous IgG ELISA test kit, "COVID KAVACH ELISA", for antibody detection for COVID-19, which will play a critical role in the surveillance for coronavirus. The test kit has the advantage of testing 90 samples together in a single run of two and a half hours, so that healthcare professionals can proceed quickly with the next steps. According to an ICMR statement on external validation, the IgG ELISA test kit has been found to have a sensitivity and specificity of 98.7 per cent and 100 per cent respectively.
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