As coronavirus is wide-spreading across the nation, the government should immediately ensure free-of-cost coronavirus tests in state-approved labs or private ones, said the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

In an interim order, the Supreme Court said that the centre should immediately direct all approved diagnostic laboratories, including state-owned and private facilities, to offer free testing. A two-judge bench, comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Ravindra Bhat, agreed with the petitioner that permitting private labs to charge ₹4,500 for screening and confirmation of covid-19 may make it exorbitant to a large section of India’s population, and individuals cannot be deprived of their right to test themselves for covid-19 because of lack of money.

The apex court, however, said that it will consider later whether private laboratories are entitled to any compensation of expenses. The government has two weeks to file a response, the court said.

The petitioner, advocate Shashan Deo Sudhi, had challenged 7 March advisory issued by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that set a price of ₹4,500 for screening and confirming covid-19 cases by private labs. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta justified the ICMR advisory, saying that private labs had to be intricate because the 15,000 tests being done by 118 government labs were not sufficient. Mehta added that the government has involved 47 private laboratory chains, since it is unclear how many will be needed and for how long.

The Supreme Court observed in its order that private hospitals have an important role to play in encompassing the scale of pandemic in the hour of national crisis. Well, we hope that COVID-19 tests are processed free of cost, to help people who are reluctant to go for testing because of the high price cap.


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