Supreme Court orders free Covid-19 testing at private labs

The Supreme Court has ordered private medical laboratories across the globe, not to charge patients for Covid 19 testing. According to the Supreme Court, tests relating to Covid-19 should be free of charge, whether in approved government laboratories or approved private laboratories. The court added that coronavirus tests must be performed in NABL-accredited laboratories or any institution approved by the WHO or ICMR.

 

by Niranjani Jesentha Kumari Prabagararaj

Updated: Apr 08, 2020 20:03 IST

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18 laboratories had previously conducted 15,000 tests per day

"Private hospitals and laboratories have a significant role to play in reducing the severity of the pandemic through the extension of philanthropic services in the hour of national crisis," the Supreme Court observed. The Supreme Court suggested earlier in the day that the Centre would create a mechanism where private laboratories performing Covid-19 tests do not demand exorbitant fees from the public, and the government would reimburse the fees paid by the laboratories.

The Centre told a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat that 118 laboratories had previously conducted 15,000 tests per day and, later, 47 private laboratories were allowed to conduct the Covid-19 tests to enhance capacity.

The top court heard a plea from lawyer Shashank Deo Sudhi seeking guidance from the Centre and authorities to provide all people in the country with free cost testing facilities for Covid-19.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said it's a evolving situation and at this juncture, the government doesn't know how many labs will be needed and how long the ongoing lockdown will go on.

To this end, the bench proposed that the Centre should ensure that private laboratories do not charge excessive amounts and that the government should create a system to refund the test fees. The Supreme Court had also sought a response from the Centre and other authorities on Sudhi's plea on April 3.

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

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