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Government directs states to talk to private labs to reduce price of COVID-19 test

The centre has asked state governments to hold talks with private laboratories to reduce the price of the COVID-19 test.

May 27, 2020 13:31 IST
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The centre has asked state governments to hold talks with private laboratories to reduce the price of the COVID-19 test. The ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava wrote a letter to the Chief Secretaries of the States/ UTs on May 26, 2020 advising the state governments to negotiate with the private labs and fix up mutually agreeable prices for samples being sent by the government and also for private individuals who want to get their COVID tests done at these labs.

The decision was taken given the availability of indigenous testing kits and supplies. The ICMR Chief wrote stating that now that testing supplies are also stabilizing and many have started procuring such kits from local markets where varied options of testing material including indigenous ones are being available, the prices of the COVID-19 tests are becoming competitive and hence, being reduced. 

Key Highlights 

The ICMR has been advocating for aggressive testing of people with coronavirus symptoms. RT-PCR test is considered as the best for such people.

Earlier in March, the ICMR had suggested an upper ceiling of Rs 4500 for the COVID-19 tests by private labs. The research council has now stated that the upper ceiling price may not be applicable now with the evolving prices of the testing commodities.

Hence, all state/ UT Governments have been advised to hold  talks with private labs and urge them to fix mutually agreeable prices for testing of COVID-19 samples.

The private labs continue to maintain that they have been doing a service to the nation, as even with an upper ceiling of Rs 4500, they have not been able to recover their expenses and continue their tests at a time when non-COVID-19 test volumes are at a record low.

COVID-19 tests

The COVID-19 tests are conducted to identify the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus. This includes methods including RT-PCR, isothermal nucleic acid amplification and antigen. 

Antibody tests are also conducted to detect antibodies produced in response to the coronavirus infection to identify the asymptomatic cases. The detection of antibodies helps for both diagnosis and population surveillance.

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