Bengaluru: The Karnataka government on Friday said that it will charge ₹650 per person for pool testing by private labs for Covid-19, making it one of the first states to do so in the country.
Swabs of all passengers coming through rail and flight into Karnataka will be collected at airports, railway stations and hotels by private labs and testing will be done by RT-PCR method, the state health department said in its order on Friday.
"The samples will be tested by polling method (five samples in one pool as per ICMR guidelines. Each traveller will be charged a fee of ₹650 per test by the private lab irrespective of the test result being positive or negative," the order stated.
Pooling of samples refers to testing of five samples at the same time to increase the number of tests conducted by laboratories. This is followed by individual samples if a pool screens positive.
The government said that this decision was to improve the participation of ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) approved private labs since most of them were running at suboptimal levels.Karnataka has been trying to scale up its testing infrastructure and on Friday tested 12,411 samples, which takes the total to 2,64,489 so far.
Xcyton Diagnostics has been assigned to collect samples of domestic and international air passengers at the airport while Neuberg Anand Reference Laboratories, Cancyte Technologies Private Limited, Aster Lab, Narayana Hrudayalaya Lab, Vydehi Hospital and Syngene International Limited will collect swabs from people arriving through trains.
“The special category groups can be tested at a faster pace and be left to go," Pankaj Kumar Pandey, commissioner for health, family welfare and Ayush services said.
Pandey, however, confirmed that the seven-day mandatory institutional quarantine for people entering Karnataka from high risk states continues.
However, the government acknowledged that there is a limitation on the capacity of institutional quarantine centres and that all passengers from the high-risk states cannot be put up in already understaffed hotels and lodges for seven days.
Faster results of covid-19 tests would also give the government room to put these persons in home quarantine and reduce the burden on government run centres, which may soon be done away with.
There are at least 1.1 lakh people in government-run quarantine centres and over 2,000 people lodged in hotels.
People arriving from other states have been the main reason for the surge in Covid-19 cases in Karnataka. People who returned from Maharashtra account for over 1,300 of the total 2,781 cases in the state so far, which prompted the state to push for stringent rules on mandatory institutional quarantine.
However, an expert committee that comprises virologists and epidemiologists has suggested that Karnataka should do away with institutional quarantine since its utility is almost saturated and carries with it the risk of spreading the virus due to overcrowding in these spaces.