India's Supreme Court today ordered that Covid-19 tests in approved government or private laboratories should be conducted free of cost.
The apex court asked the Indian government to immediately issue directives in this regard, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
The court said private hospitals and laboratories have an important role to play in containing the scale of the pandemic by extending philanthropic services in this hour of national crisis.
The cost of coronavirus testing in private laboratories and hospitals across India is Rs 4,500 per person.
The bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Ravindra Bhat, which heard the matter via video conferencing, said tests relating to Covid-19 must be carried out at the laboratories or other agencies accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The top court also said that "the number of patients suffering from Covid-19 is rapidly increasing worldwide with death toll also rising. In our country, in spite of various measures taken by the government of India and different state governments/Union Territory, the number of patients and deaths caused by it is increasing day by day."
The Indian apex court issued the directives on a Public Interest Litigation filed by Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi seeking the court's directives to the Centre and authorities concerned to provide free of cost testing facilities for Covid-19 to all citizens in the country.
"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 should be deprived from undergoing the Covid-19 test due to non-payment of capped amount of Rs 4,500," the Supreme Court bench said in its order.
The bench sought the Centre's response in this regard in two weeks, and clarified that the question as to whether the private laboratories providing free of cost Covid-19 tests are entitled for any reimbursement of expenses incurred will be considered later on.
The bench noted that the Public Interest Litigation also challenged the advisory dated March 17, issued by Indian Council of Medical Research under the Department of Health Research, by which it fixed Rs 4,500 for screening and confirming Covid-19 cases.