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Free COVID-19 test for all: Supreme Court orders Centre to make it free for all Indians

Arfa Javaid

The Supreme Court of India has directed the Central Government to ensure that free testing is offered to detect COVID-19 to all the citizens of India in an interim order. It must be noted that private lab charges are capped at Rs. 4,500 apiece while at government labs the testing is free. 

A two-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ravindra S Bhatt stated that the bench agrees with the petitioner Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi that the private labs are charging Rs. 4,500 for the detection of COVID-19 and a larger section of India won't be able to afford it. The petition further stated that the right to test COVID-19 must not be denied to the individuals due to the lack of money. The apex court has sought the government's view on the interim order and the government has only two weeks to file a response. 

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“Private hospitals including labs have an important role to play in containing the scale of the pandemic by extending philanthropic services in the hour of national crisis,” the SC bench stated. The bench further stated that it will consider later whether private labs are entitled to any reimbursement of expenses.

The Supreme Court bench further directed that the tests to detect COVID-19 must be carried out only in National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL)-accredited Labs, or any agency approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) or Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has stated that currently, 118 government labs could perform 15,000 tests only. The government has roped in 47 private labs as the government labs were not sufficient. Thus, the government may consider making COVID-19 tests free in private labs. 

The number of COVID-19  cases in India is increasing day by day despite several measures taken by the government to combat the highly contagious virus. As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India has currently 52198 active COVID-19 cases and has 169 deaths so far. 

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