An orthopedic surgeon moved the Supreme Court on Saturday (April 11), seeking a modification of the court’s April 8 order directing authorities to ensure COVID-19 tests in approved government and private laboratories be conducted free of cost.
Kaushal Kant Mishra has filed an intervention application in a pending PIL, saying if the testing is made free for all, private labs will be overburdened financially and slow down.
Mishra urged the court to allow private labs to do COVID-19 testing as per the rates stipulated in the ICMR Advisory dated March 17. He, however, said the labs can do the testing for the EWS categories with immediate reimbursement by the government.
The senior surgeon has also sought a direction to the authorities to “forthwith set up testing labs in all municipalities and panchayat areas”.
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Issuing the no-charge order, the Supreme Court had observed that private labs need to be philanthropic during a national crisis.
Prior to this, the government allowed some private labs to charge ₹4,500 for screening and confirmation tests for COVID-19.
Mishra’s plea said the apex court’s order has disincentivised the labs to continue to function at a time when testing across the country has to be ramped up.
“In the UK, private labs are charging as much as $425 per test, which is equal to ₹32,500,” the plea said.
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It said forcing private entities shall create a sharp dip in an already below par testing rate for COVID-19 and if the government does not provide immediate reimbursement, there is a real risk that the private labs may stop testing for COVID-19.
“The message that has been sent out by the WHO Chief as early as the middle of March is to test, test, test… All countries should be able to test all suspected cases, they cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded,” it said.