Those applying to the ICMR should have infrastructure and expertise which include availability of a biosafety level-2 laboratory along with a molecular biology set-up for virological diagnosis and a functioning and calibrated biosafety cabinet type 2A/2B, it said.
The labs should also have a cold centrifuge for RNA extraction, and a functional and calibrated real-time PCR machine. The applicants should ensure the availability of staff, like medical microbiologists with experience of work in molecular virology and at least 4-6 technicians so that they can work in shifts. Private laboratory applicants have to submit a copy of NABL-accreditation certificate and scope of accreditation for real-time PCR for RNA viruses.
According to the ICMR, applications should be accompanied with pictures of the laboratory infrastructure. With this, the ICMR starts identifying government and private labs, research institutes and medical colleges which have the capability and infrastructure to undertake Covid-19 testing to include them in the Covid-19 testing network.
The laboratories are required to have personal protective equipment, reagents, primers, probes, hand sanitisers and a list of other things. As the number of Covid-19 cases accelerates, the ICMR has prepared a ‘worst case scenario’ road map for testing.
It has geared up to add 200 laboratories for round-the-clock testing. According to the ICMR, interventions are being actively considered to scale up capacity to 1 lakh tests a day in the coming months.
“With a view to preparing for the worst-case scenario, the ICMR has taken a number of steps towards enhancing the number of labs, machines and test kits required to test suspected cases across the country,” it said in a statement on Monday. The government has been facing criticism on its low testing strategy.
However, on Monday the ICMR said it had scaled up testing by approving over 200 public and private laboratories for Covid-19 testing through RTPCR machines. The ICMR is also considering other interventions such as moving to 24×7 working model at existing labs. It has been coordinating with states to increase manpower for functions including data-entry, and re-deploying automated and manual RT-PCR machines, among others.