COVID-19 tests must be free in government, private labs: Supreme Court

Laying an emphasis on the urgency of increased testing for novel coronavirus, the Supreme Court today directed the government to issue directions to approved testing laboratories for conducting COVID-19 tests free of cost.

The apex court has also ordered that such tests be conducted only in NABL accredited labs or agencies approved by the World Health Organization or the ICMR. The court raised questions on the feasibility of tests that were being charged Rs 4,500 by private labs

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ravindra S Bhat was hearing a PIL filed by Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, which sought a direction to the government to make COVID-19 testing free across the country.

On March 31, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre and authorities concerned to provide free testing facilities for COVID-19 to all citizens in the country.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said it is a developing situation and government at this juncture does not know how many laboratories will be needed and how long the ongoing lockdown will continue.

The petition had questioned the March 17 advisory of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which capped Rs 4,500 for testing of COVID-19 in private hospitals or labs, including screening and confirmatory tests.

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