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Health minister says Russia will begin focusing on clinical symptoms, not lab tests, to diagnose COVID-19

Source: Interfax

In an interview with the state television channel Rossiya-1, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has signaled that the country is moving away from laboratory testing results in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We see that the illness sometimes develops so quickly that it already has a characteristic clinical picture, that it can be diagnosed without using a laboratory test to confirm that picture,” Murashko said.

Previously, Russia had faced criticism for setting aside hospitals for patients with “community-acquired pneumonia” without counting those patients as coronavirus cases due to insufficient testing.

Earlier in the day on April 9, a group of Moscow doctors leading the fight against the new coronavirus asked city officials to stop designating COVID-19 hospitals and new pneumonia hospitals separately, arguing that most pneumonia patients have COVID-19 in the country’s present circumstances. Their request was almost immediately approved.

The rapid change in Russia’s tactics amid the pandemic follows an April 7 conference where Sergey Avdeyev, the Health Ministry’s lead pulmonology consultant, said a new Russian study found a 70- to 80-percent accuracy rate in PCR-based COVID-19 laboratory tests. He reasoned that these tests, which selectively amplify the new coronavirus’s genetic material, frequently result in false negatives, leaving many cases undetected.

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