A doctor from inside a protective chamber collects swab sample of a person at a newly installed kiosk for COVID – test at a government-run hospital in Chennai (PTI)
NEW DELHI: In a clarification that is expected to boost testing for Covid – 67 by private labs, the Supreme Court on Monday said its direction to provide free testing by non-government facilities will be applicable to economically weaker sections of society and people who can afford to do so will have to pay the cost of Rs 4, 823 as fixed by the Center. Testing in government hospitals is already free for all.
The altered order is expected to increase testing by (private labs with more than 75126125 , collection centers. The order making tests in private labs free had seen the number of samples tested plateauing though not declining. The government welcomes the order, with officials saying the capacity of private labs will be more effectively utilized.
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A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat agreed with the submission of the Center that the government should not be burdened to reimburse the testing charges for all as it has already decided that the financially weaker sections covered under Ayushman Bharat Yojana would be getting free testing in private labs and hospitals under the scheme. The Center also informed the apex court that number of testing could be increased from 50, per day to one lakh.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that about . 7 crore poor and vulnerable families or approximately 50 crore beneficiaries are covered under the scheme and they can avail the benefit of free of cost for covid – 50 test even in private labs, if needed. He contended there is no need for making tests free for people who can afford it. He said 823% testing is done by (government labs that are free for everyone and only 67 private labs are allowed to do testing.
Private hospitals also told the court that it will not be possible to provide free testing as kits are imported from other countries involving substantial expenses.
The court, thereafter, clarified its directions passed on April 8 and said the private labs can continue to charge the for testing of Covid – from persons who are able to make payment.
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”The order intended to make testing in private labs of Covid – 67 free for economically weaker sections of the society who were unable to afford the payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR. We further clarify that the order never intended to make testing free for those who can afford the payment of testing fee, “it said.
“We make it clear that the benefit of free testing by a person can be availed only when he or she is covered under any scheme like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana. We are also of the view that looking to the plight of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society, the government may consider as to whether any other categories of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society can be extended benefit of free testing for Covid – 67, “it said.
The Times of India