SC asks govt to prevent pvt labs from charging high fee for Covid-19 tests

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday suggested that the government should create a mechanism wherein private laboratories conducting Covid-19  tests do not charge exorbitant fees from public and government should reimburse the fees charged by labs.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat was told by the government that earlier 15,000 tests were conducted per day by 118 labs and later to enhance the capacity, 47 private labs were allowed to conduct the Covid-19  tests.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi seeking a direction to the Centre and authorities to provide free of cost testing facility for Covid-19  to all citizens in the country.

Sudhi told the bench that there should be free testing of Covid-19  by labs in the country as it is expensive.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said it is a developing situation and government at this juncture does not know how many laboratories will be needed and how long the ongoing lockdown will continue.

To this, the bench suggested that the Centre should ensure that private laboratories do not charge high amount and government should create a mechanism for reimbursement of the fees charges for the tests.

Mehta said he would like to take instructions on this front after which the bench said it would pass orders in the matter.

On April 3, the top court had sought response from the Centre and other authorities on the plea filed by Sudhi.

The petitioner has also sought a direction to the authorities for ramping up the testing facilities for Covid-19  at the earliest "given the escalating mortality and morbidity rate across the country".

The petition has questioned the March 17 advisory of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which capped Rs 4,500 for testing of Covid-19  in private hospitals or labs, including screening and confirmatory tests.

"It is extremely difficult for the common citizen to get himself/herself tested in the government hospital /labs and being no alternative in the sight, the people are constrained to pay the capped amount to the private hospital/labs for protecting their lives," it said.

The plea said the impending danger of coronavirus is extremely serious, given the deprived population of the country, and testing is the only way to contain the pandemic. It alleged that authorities are "completely insensitive and indifferent" to the plight of common citizens who are already financially burdened on account of complete lockdown across the country.


The SC is hearing a plea seeking directions from the Centre challenging government advisory which had fixed the testing of #COVID at private labs and hospitals at Rs. 4500.#COVID

— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 8, 2020
"Further, the capping of the prices of the testing facility of Covid-19  in private hospitals/labs strikes at the Article 14 of the Constitution of India as being arbitrary and unreasonable," it said and urged that the March 17 advisory be declared arbitrary.

It also sought a direction for ensuring that all tests relating to Covid-19  are conducted under the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) or ICMR accredited pathological labs.

It said ICMR should be directed to hold regular news briefings through national TV channels about the current situation on coronavirus and precautions to be taken by the citizens.

The plea also said that authorities must ensure adequate numbers of testing kits and centers for Covid-19  across the country.

Tata Trusts, private firm join hands to roll out coronavirus testing kits

Molbio Diagnostics, a diagnostics company, has partnered with Tata Trusts to roll out Covid-testing kits across the country.

Molbio, founded in 2000, largely focuses on testing for diseases including tuberculosis and malaria. It can now diagnose a positive result for the coronavirus strain within an hour for Rs 1,350, said Chandrashekhar Nair, chief technical officer of the firm.

The test — called the Truenat Beta CoV test — effectively enables same-day testing, reporting, and patient isolation initiation (if required). Officials say this is one of the few ICMR-approved tests to have been validated in a short period of time. Its battery-operated kits are the size of a telephone and can be taken out into the field to test as many as 15 individuals a day. They range between Rs 6.5 lakh and Rs 12 lakh, and have received both government and ICMR approval. Read more...

Orders placed for 500,000 rapid antibody testing kits for conducting Covid-19 tests: ICMR

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday said that an order has been placed for 500,000 rapid antibody testing kits for conducting Covid-19 tests and 250,000 kits will be delivered by April 9.

"An order has been placed for 5 lakh testing kits for Covid-19. 250,000 kits to be delivered on April 8 or 9 as promised by the company," ICMR's R Gangakhedkar said when asked about rapid antibody testing kits for conducting COVID-19 tests in hotspots.

When asked about the coronavirus testing capacity per day, he said: "We have been saying that our current capacity is 13,000. If we do it in two shifts. It can be increased to 25,000. If we use all our resources, then it will be increased to such a level that the people don't have to care about testing."

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