All coronavirus tests in India, including at private labs, must be free: Supreme Court
While the coronavirus tests are already free in the government-run labs, the private labs will not be allowed to charge Rs 4500 for the test in the middle of the ongoing crisis, the top court ruled in response to a Public Interest Litigation or PIL.
A decision on reimbursement of private labs will be taken later, Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat said in a hearing conducted via video conferencing.
"We find prima facie substance in the submission of petitioner that at this time of national calamity permitting private Labs to charge Rs 4,500 for screening and confirmation test of COVID-19 may not be within means of a large part of population of this country and no person be deprived to undergo the COVID-19 test due to non- payment of capped amount of Rs 4,500," the Supreme Court said.
"The private hospitals including laboratories have an important role to play in containing the scale of pandemic by extending philanthropic services in the hour of national crisis," it added.
"We thus are satisfied that the petitioner has made out a case for issuing a direction to the respondents to issue necessary direction to accredited private labs to conduct free of cost COVID-19 test," the court said.
"The question as to whether the private laboratories carrying free of cost COVID-19 tests are entitled for any reimbursement of expenses incurred shall be considered later on," the top court added.
WHO has been maintaining that the only way to contain the virus is maximum testing.
According to the latest numbers from the Health Ministry, India has registered over 5,200 coronavirus cases and 149 deaths.