Coronavirus | COVID-19 tests must be done free, orders Supreme Court

Ghughuti Bulletin

Tests relating to COVID-19, whether done in approved government or private laboratories, shall be free of cost, the Supreme Court ordered on Wednesday.

Also read | Affected districts increased from 62 to 257 in a span of 15 days

Issue the necessary directions immediately, it told the government.

A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Ravindra Bhat held that tests relating to COVID-19 must be carried out only in NABL accredited Labs or any agencies approved by the WHO or the ICMR.

The order was passed on a petition filed by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi to implement free COVID-19 testing by private labs. On April 3, the court issued notice to the government on the plea, which challenged the legality of a March 17 advisory capping the price for Coronavirus testing at Rs. 4500 in private labs and hospitals. Mr. Sudhi had argued that the advisory was both discriminatory and a violation of the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Also read | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

“We find prima facie substance in the submission of petitioner that at this time of national calamity permitting private labs to charge Rs. 4500 for screening and confirmation test of COVID-19 may not be within means of a large part of population of this country and no person be deprived to undergo the COVID-19 test due to non-payment of capped amount of ₹4500,” the court observed in its order. It pointed to the government laboratories carrying out COVID-19 tests free of cost.

The court said that private hospitals, including laboratories, have an important role to play in containing the scale of the pandemic by extending philanthropic services in the hour of national crisis. Reimbursing private labs of their expenses was a matter to be considered later on and not now, it stated.

Also read | ICMR study shows one person not following lockdown can infect 406 in 30 days: Health Ministry

“We thus are satisfied that the petitioner has made out a case for issuing a direction to the respondents to issue necessary direction to accredited private labs to conduct free of cost COVID-19 test,” it concluded.

The government status report in the court had said that as many as 15,000 tests were conducted a day by 118 labs. The work was outsourced to 47 private labs to enhance the capacity of testing.

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