Coronavirus | Private labs begin offering free COVID-19 testing

Some private labs have said they were offering free testing for COVID-19 as per the Supreme Court directive on Wednesday. However some of them noted that it was unsustainable unless the government stepped in soon with guidelines on how they could be compensated.

Every test costs the government ₹4,500 and 67 private labs authorised by the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) across the country were charging the same until the Supreme Court order, which had also directed the government to issue guidelines.

We endorse the Supreme Court’s judgement, which aims at increasing the accessibility to COVID-19 testing and to make it affordable for the common man . However for private labs, there are numerous costs such as reagents, consumables, skilled manpower and infrastructure specifics .The pandemic also calls for immense infection control measures like personal protective equipment,viral-transport media and the need to keep sanitation and employee safety in mind at every step,” Dr Arjun Dang, CEO, Dangs Labs, told The Hindu in an email.

Also read: Don’t have ‘wherewithal’ to do COVID-19 tests free of cost: private labs

“Private labs are barely able to recover costs at the govt mandated cost of ₹4,500 . Also the routine work of the lab owing to the lockdown has reduced drastically & keeping this in mind we hope the government. comes up with modalities so that testing in private laboratories remains sustainable. We are currently following the SC’s orders and doing the test free of cost while awaiting further clarity”, he said.

Arokiaswamy Velumani, Managing Director of the Mumbai-headquartered Thyrocare Technologies said his organisation had conducted about 20 free tests since Thursday. “The government ought to have immediately issued guidelines regarding reimbursement and compensation,” he told The Hindu.

Of the 67 laboratories offering tests, at least 50 of them have licensed kits and diagnostics from international firms and is an additional cost.

The test being offered is the real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) that can detect the presence of the virus. Private labs are only allowed to offer home-based collections though some have also begun to offer ‘drive through’ testing.

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