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Rates of rapid RT-PCR tests at Mumbai airport too high: state to Centre

In the wake of Omicron, Maharashtra has intensified Covid testing on the advice of the Centre. Vyas and his team have been having a series of discussions with the Centre and MIAL on this.

Written by Yogesh Naik | Mumbai |
December 8, 2021 8:02:43 am
the Airports Authority of India has written to all regional heads that the revenue share percentage at airports for RT-PCR and Rapid RT-PCR tests should be withdrawn. (Representational)

Additional Chief Secretary of the state Health Department Dr Pradeep Vyas has written to the Union Ministry of Health that the rates of Rapid RT-PCR tests at Mumbai International Airport Limited run by Adani Airports are too high.

In the wake of Omicron, Maharashtra has intensified Covid testing on the advice of the Centre. Vyas and his team have been having a series of discussions with the Centre and MIAL on this.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Vyas said there should be uniformity of rates across airports.

The letter written by Vyas to Additional Secretary Arti Ahuja of the Union Health Ministry says, “At the Mumbai airport the rapid RTPCR test is being charged at Rs 4500, which operator has agreed to bring it down to Rs 3900 per test, but still it is very high compared to the rates of similar test at other airports like Bengaluru, Chennai and Kochi.”

“During discussion it was informed by the operator conducting the test that he has to share 30 to 35 per cent of revenue with airport operator M/s Adani Airports Ltd. and as a result he is not in a position to reduce the rates further. It seems necessity that these rates are brought down immediately and windfall profits at the cost of passengers be curtailed,” the letter says.

“CBNAAT targets N2 plus E gene, TruNat targets RNaseP plus RdRp genes but we understand that in rapid RTPCR tests only one gene is being tested N gene (Thermofisher) and RdRp (Abbott). It may kindly be examined if it is possible to direct to use even for rapid RTPCR tests the kits with 2 or 3 genes to increase the sensitivity in view of enhanced threat ofcovid infection from international passengers at Airport,” it adds.

A spokesperson of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport said, “We are aware of the queries and are working with the test laboratories and other partners to see whether we can further bring down the cost of the Rapid PCR test, wherever possible.”

Meanwhile, the Airports Authority of India has written to all regional heads that the revenue share percentage at airports for RT-PCR and Rapid RT-PCR tests should be withdrawn.

Under the present arrangement, a percentage of the fee charged by labs that undertake tests at airports is shared with the agency that runs the airport. However, in view of Omicron, the Union Health Ministry wants random 2 per cent check on passengers and compulsory testing of passengers from at-risk countries, and it was decided to reduce rates of all tests of COVID 19.

A letter dated December 6, signed by AAI executive director of operations V A Chourey, said that the revenue share percentage is to be passed on to passengers by reducing the cost of the tests. Space rental and other charges should continue as per the existing contract, the letter said.

Mumbai’s Sahar airport does not fall under the purview of AAI, but Juhu airport does, as well as Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

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