Even as global cases of the Coronavirus have topped 1.5 million, the World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to urge governments to ramp up the testing for COVID-19.
“Get the capacity, and test, test, test. If you don’t know you’ve got a fire, you can’t put it out,” says Dr Margaret Harris of the WHO Coronavirus response team.
While the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has allowed 51 private labs across the country to conduct tests for COVID-19, statistics show that there have been less than 50,000 tests that have been administered in the country so far.
The non-availability of testing kits and in some states, the rules that have been imposed have made it difficult for the private labs to function. For example, some states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have banned home collection.
On 31 March 2020, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court by Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, seeking a direction to ensure that the government makes COVID-19 testing facilities free of charge for citizens across the country.
The Apex Court, taking cognizance of the fact that more testing is the need of the hour has directed that all testing, whether being conducted in an approved government facility or an approved private lab will have to be done free of any charge.
The Court made the following observation:
“We find prima facie substance in the submission of (the) petitioner that at this time of national calamity permitting private Labs to charge Rs 4500 for screening and confirmation test of COVID-19 may not be within means of a large part of (the) population of this country and no person be deprived to undergo the COVID-19 test due to nonpayment of (the) capped amount of Rs 4500. It is submitted before us that insofar as Government Laboratories are concerned the COVID-19 test is conducted free of cost.”
The two-judge bench, headed by Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ravindra S Bhat further noted that private hospitals and laboratories have “an important role to play in containing the scale of (the) pandemic by extending philanthropic services in the hour of national crisis.”
Do make a note of this and ensure that you spread to ensure that more people get tested and make full use of this order.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)