New Delhi, Apr 13, 2020: Hours after Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court, urging it to dismiss the petition on which it ordered free testing for COVID-19 in private laboratories, the apex court stated that the benefit of free testing in private labs is only for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and for those covered by Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) scheme, IndainExpress reported.
The Supreme Court also asked the central government to inform within a week, about any other EWS are also eligible for free tests.
Last week, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat had, in an interim order, ruled that the testing relating to COVID-19 in approved government as well as private labs will be free of cost.
Earlier, private laboratories had called upon the government to “come up with modalities” so that their service “remains sustainable”.
Sources had earlier informed The Indian Express that the government “recognises the need for liquidity to keep private laboratories afloat” and understands the pitfalls of a universal free testing rule for COVID-19.
The Centre had earlier fixed a price cap of Rs 4,500 on each test for 68 private labs in 12 states that were approved. Dr. Arvind Lal, managing director of Dr Lal Pathlabs, who has been holding talks with the government on behalf of the private labs, had previously told The Indian Express, “The government has told us they are working on it and they will go to court on this.”
At present, 151 labs in the ICMR system are testing for COVID-19, and the testing output of private labs has not picked up yet. For instance, official figures show that out of 16,564 samples tested on April 10-11, 14,210 were scanned in government facilities.