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Business News/ News / India/  Covid-19 test should not cost more than 4,500: Centre tells private labs
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Covid-19 test should not cost more than ₹4,500: Centre tells private labs

This may include ₹1,500 as a screening test for suspect cases and an additional ₹3,000 for confirmation test, the guidelines said
  • 'However, the ICMR encourages free or subsidised testing in this hour of national public health emergency,' the guidelines notified by the Union Health Ministry stated
  • Representative image (Photo: Reuters)Premium
    Representative image (Photo: Reuters)

    New Delhi: The private laboratories charging more than 4,500 for testing Covid-19 will face legal action, ministry of health and family welfare said on Saturday.

    The announcement came after the apex research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) laid down guidelines for Covid-19 testing in private laboratories in India on Saturday.

    “The National Task Force recommends that the maximum cost for testing sample should not exceed 4,500. This may include 1,500 as a screening test for suspect cases, and an additional 3,000 for confirmation test," said Preeti Sudan, secretary union Health ministry in a letter.

    However, ICMR encouraged free or subsidised testing in this hour of “national public health emergency".

    According to the guidelines, the test can only be conducted by a laboratory, which has National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), a Constituent Board of Quality Council of India accreditation for real-time PCR assay for RNA virus.

    The government said that the laboratory test should only be offered when prescribed by a qualified physician as per the ICMR guidelines for Covid-19 testing.

    The guidelines said that, preferably, home collection of samples should be done by all the private laboratories adding that this will help avoid the contact of people with the suspect case during local travel to reach the laboratory.

    The ICMR has only recommended the real time PCR based assays as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) and ruling out the Conventional PCR, in-house real time PCR and antibody/antigen tests for Covid-19 testing.

    The government strictly said that all Covid-19 positive samples will need to be transported to ICMR- NIV, Pune under suitable biosafety and biosecurity precautions as laid down by ICMR.

    Further, the negative samples will be destroyed within one week of collection. Also the samples cannot be shared with any other organisation for any purpose.

    With the number of coronavirus patients swelling in the country, the government last week decided to rope in around 50 private laboratories to help increase the capacity of diagnostic services.

    “The private labs have been permitted in principle to start testing for Covid 19. The modalities of which labs can perform the tests have also been shared. The private healthcare sector welcomes this move,as this will provide an opportunity for testing of many more patients who are suspected to have Covid 19 infection, thus reducing chances of community spread," said Harsh Mahajan, founder, Mahajan Imaging Centre and vice-president, Healthcare Federation of India.

    India on Saturday reported over 60 cases with the total number rising to 315. The country as reported four deaths so far.

    “This partnership between the public and private laboratories will greatly enhance the capacity, availability and access to these tests," he said.

    So far, only government labs were doing these tests and government identified over 121 labs for the tests. By its own admission, government said that only 10% of the lab infrastructure is being used but as the cases started rising sharply, government mooted to rope in private sector.

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    Updated: 22 Mar 2020, 12:33 AM IST
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