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Mumbai to ease test restrictions and hopes the country will follow

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India’s financial capital, Mumbai, will enable walk-in coronavirus testing without a prescription – a precedent for the need to relax an extremely restrictive coronavirus testing policy.

India, which has the third highest known coronavirus exposure in the world with 742,000 confirmed cases, also has one of the lowest test rates worldwide. Since the pandemic began, tight controls on tests have made it difficult for sick patients to receive tests, even if doctors prescribe it.

India has only performed 7,398 tests per million of its population, compared to 20,500 per million people in Brazil and more than 1

17,200 per million in the United States.

India’s extremely restrictive test protocols were originally designed to provide scarce test kits and laboratory staff for suspicious cases that need to be most urgently confirmed.

But even after testing capacity expanded in the past few weeks, many jurisdictions continued to make it difficult for patients to receive tests, alleging that they were motivated to downplay the severity of the pandemic in their area.

In a major reversal of previous policies, Mumbai city officials will now allow local diagnostic laboratories to test all patients on a walk-in basis without a doctor’s prescription. This is considered by public health experts to be crucial for the control of urban exposure.

Experts hope that other cities and states will follow suit because the Indian infection curve shows no signs of flattening out. While the number of new cases in Mumbai and New Delhi appears to be decreasing, the southern technology centers Bangalore and Hyderabad report increasing numbers of cases.

The Bangalore health system is currently struggling to accommodate sick patients and families are finding it difficult to find hospital beds.

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