India’s testing capacity for Covid-19 is extremely insufficient to withstand the size of the outbreak. Many experts believe that a tenfold increase in the country’s testing rate is necessary to keep positivity rates below 10 percent, as recommended by the World Health Organization.
There currently are three aspects to the government’s approach for Covid-19 testing, which are the use of real-time RT-PCR throat/nasal swab tests as he gold standard for testing, pooled sample screening by PCR in areas with Covid-19 positivity rates below 5 percent, and reliable rapid antibody test, which the authorities are currently looking for.
Regarding the supply chain, test sites and laboratories are increasing their capacities, and the government has also reconsidered certain standard operating procedures to increase efficiency. Furthermore, the Indian government has partnered with the domestic industry to build self-reliance in its testing capacity. This has resulted in greater collaboration between government research and development labs and the private industry. However, the cost of testing for private labs remains high as they are responsible to procure their own supplies, discouraging routine lab work. Regarding the distribution of supplies, 14 additional regional depots have been introduced to accelerate the process, decentralizing stockholding closer to the testing labs.
Overall, to improve testing capacity and efficiency, the Center for Global Development and ACCESS Health India recommended building a scientifically rigorous but pragmatic testing strategy, ensuring faster turnaround time for Covid-19 testing to inform an effective and accountable policy response, designing the supply chain network to withstand the anticipated short-to mid-term tenfold scale-up, and leveraging the country’s private sector for labs and logistics with a national strategy.